Sam Tobis, owner of Grand Bakery (Photo/Courtesy Tobis)
Sam Tobis, owner of Grand Bakery (Photo/Courtesy Tobis)

Oakland’s Grand Bakery for sale — and it’s a deal

Sam Tobis, the owner of Grand Bakery, has put Oakland’s storied kosher shop up for sale — for $1.

“It’s never been about the money for me,” he said, about his decision to pretty much give the store away. “It’s been an honor to carry forward the legacy, and I want to find the right person who wants to take the torch.”

Tobis bought Grand Bakery in 2017 from Bob Jaffe, who had owned it for 18 years. It originally was opened in 1962 as New Yorker Bakery by Ernie Hollander, a stalwart member of Oakland’s Jewish community who survived Auschwitz. The shop later became Ernie’s Strudel Palace, and then Grand Bakery.

When Tobis bought it, he made the controversial decision to close the Grand Avenue storefront because of high rents and concentrate on the wholesale business to local supermarkets. The baking shifted to the Food Mill, a grocer about three miles away.

Last summer, longtime Saul’s Deli chef Jesus “Chuy” Mendoza and Tobis entered into a partnership to become co-owners of Saul’s in North Berkeley.

Tobis said he realized that running both businesses was no longer sustainable and that “Grand deserves fully focused leadership.”

“Grand is an amazing platform. It’s a great opportunity for someone,” Tobis told J. “I thought it was me. And in some ways it was, as it led me to Saul’s. It was my gateway into the Jewish food world.”

Tobis has spent the last several months reaching out to people in the Jewish community, looking for the right person to steward the kosher bakery into the future. But his efforts have come up dry.

It could mean the end of an era for the bakery, whose challahs, bagels, cookies, macaroons, hamantaschen and honey cakes have been reliable staples for East Bay kosher community or anyone who loves carbs.

“I’ve been doing direct outreach within the Jewish community, and that hasn’t revealed the person I’m looking for yet,” he said. “So I’m trying to go broader.”

Alix Wall
Alix Wall

Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals and is writer/producer of a documentary-in-progress called "The Lonely Child."