A new and improved La Boulange returns to San Francisco neighborhoods as La Boulangerie de San Francisco

Katie Jonckheer, Staff Writer

Including the location in Cole Valley – only a 10 minute walk from Urban – there are three other locations in the city, in Noe Valley, Hayes Valley, and Cow Hollow. The chain was created by a man named Pascal Rigo. CrunchBase, a platform for discovering business, states that Rigo is “a French-American Restaurateur who owns a small ‘empire’ of boulangeries, restaurants, and wholesale and retail bakeries in San Francisco and Mill Valley California that operate as Bay Bread, [and] La Boulange.” Among other restaurants, he started Boulange in 1999, and it developed into a successful San Francisco business.

But if it was so successful, why did it recently shut down?

In 2012, Starbucks bought La Boulange from Rigo for 100 million dollars. This meant that, not only would La Boulange’s pastries be incorporated into the food Starbucks served, but the company would own every Boulange restaurant.

According to Investment Watch Blog, Rigo explained at the time that Starbucks’ “current selection of mega-scones and other bloated fare is terrible.” They entered into a joint agreement that they believed would be beneficial for both chains.

In June of 2015, Starbucks announced that it had decided to close La Boulange. The company issued the following statement about the decision, as seen on Starbucks’ website: “As a standard course of business, Starbucks continually evaluates all components of its business to confirm they are aligned with key priorities and strategies for growth… Based on our ongoing evaluations, Starbucks has determined La Boulange stores are not sustainable for the company’s long-term growth.” Although Starbucks vowed to continue selling the food in stores, the individual restaurants statuses seemed in limbo. That was, until Pascal Rigo announced that he would reopen the beloved restaurant, with a new name and better pastries.

Wendell, a supervisor at the new La Boulangerie de Noe, spoke to the changes he has seen since the reopening. He said that since the reopening, Rigo “has been able to introduce a lot of products that [he] had to discontinue when [the company] was owned by a big corporation that has something different to say” than Rigo’s original vision.

“We still carry old favorites, but the ingredients are better quality,” he added. “We’re getting our ingredients more locally now. Pascal is going back to the roots. He wants to scratch what he’s done in the past and start from the beginning. It’s important to him that he talks to local merchants, to customers. The food is nicely decorated, and it’s more rich, to be honest.”

This positive change, Wendell said, is not only present in terms of the food, but also the community. He explained, “Half of us staff came from other stores after they closed, half of the staff came back. Compared to where we worked then, it was very fast paced because it was downtown but here it’s more like a family, an institution. The new La Boulangerie is only in the neighborhoods because (Rigo) wants to focus on going back to the roots, where it all started.”

La Boulangerie de San Francisco, at least in Noe Valley, seems to be thriving. With the “increase in foot traffic” and the “happiness with the products” that Wendell has seen, it can certainly be determined that the chain has made a comeback and is more authentic and San Franciscan than ever.