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Troubled Elmwood District Bakery May be Sold By MATTHEW ARTZ

Tuesday August 09, 2005

A pair of Oakland bakers have stepped up with a bid to take over the cash-strapped Nabolom Bakery. 

Miette’s Cakes, a French-themed bakery which two years ago opened shop in San Francisco’s Ferry Building after starting out at the Berkeley Farmers’ Market, is looking for an East Bay location and thinks Nabolom’s site at 2818 Russell St. is a perfect fit. 

“It’s a great spot and it’s already set up for a bakery,” said Miette’s co-owner Caitlin Williams. 

If Miette’s takes over Nabolom it means Elmwood District shoppers can expect a bakery to remain in the neighborhood after Sept. 1, the deadline the landlord has given to begin eviction proceedings.  

But Williams said Nabolom’s property manager Carrie McCarthy has questioned whether Nabolom’s lease can be transferred to a business that isn’t an employee-owned collective. Nabolom pays a monthly rent of $3,886, which is considered on the low end for the Elmwood District. 

If McCarthy balks at transferring the lease, Miette’s could then negotiate a new lease, but that could result in an empty storefront in the meantime. Nabolom would still be responsible for repaying its creditors. 

Nabolom is still fighting to remain open. The 29-year-old cooperative owes about $50,000 in unpaid rent and payroll taxes and has said it will shut its doors by the end of August if its customers can’t raise enough money to cover its debts. 

Nabolom has so far raised $5,000 in pledges from customers as part of a drive to raise the money by Aug. 15. A Nabolom fundraiser has been scheduled for Aug. 21, according to Jim Burr, a member of the cooperative. 

“We’re not giving up yet,” he said. 

A sale to Miette would require the incoming bakery to pay off Nabolom’s debt and take over the lease, according to cooperative member Crow Bolt. Miette would also be asked to hire Nabolom employees, he said. 

Nabolom, beset by management struggles, has been teetering on the brink of collapse for nearly a year. So far Miette is the only bakery to make an offer for Nabolom, but Burr said that the cooperative was still open to other bids. 

“Money is not the only consideration,” he said. “We’re looking at who could keep the bakery as a cooperative or keep it the greenest business in the Bay Area.” 

Miette’s bakes in Oakland and the Nabolom site would allow it to move the baking operations to Berkeley and sell the goods on-site, Williams said. The cost of paying off Nabolom’s debts, she added, could be offset by taking over the bakery’s lease and inheriting a facility that would be immediately ready for business. 

“We’re just waiting and seeing what happens,” Williams said. “We want to be supportive of Nabolom and we don’t want to make a play until we know that definitely they can’t make it.” 


Elmwood Theater Seeks to Reopen 

While Nabolom struggles to stay open, two blocks down College Avenue, the Elmwood Theater is struggling to reopen. The three-screen movie theater was slated to welcome back patrons on July 28, but city officials refused to grant an occupancy permit while exterior renovations were ongoing, according to theater operator Greg King. 

King said the theater would probably open by next weekend, but didn’t give a specific date. Last week, the marquee outside the theater had announced that the theater would open “in nine days,” but it has been changed to “opening soon.” 

“The theater will reopen,” said Dave Fogarty, city community development project coordinator. But he cautioned that at this point the city couldn’t give a firm date when patrons should expect the neighborhood theater to open its doors. 

Fogarty said the city balked at giving the theater an occupancy permit in July because the theater is still undergoing exterior seismic work and a plywood structure had blocked the theater’s emergency exit. 

The theater has been closed since October when a nearby sewer line burst and flooded the theater. Under city pressure, theater management also agreed to upgrade the building to comply with seismic standards for masonry buildings.