The experience of picking up a cake from San Francisco-based Butter&’s commercial kitchen was less than stellar for both customers and employees, owner Amanda Nguyen admits. The shop’s popularity increased during the pandemic with the introduction of the brand’s “quarantine cakes” — smaller cakes that serve 1-2 people, emblazoned with PSAs like, “wash your hands” — but rather than stopping by a shop to pick up their orders, instead customers pulled up curbside at an industrial building to an “indiscreet” door, before texting the business of their arrival. Inside the commercial kitchen, employees would field texts, and trek down from the third floor via an unreliable freight elevator with cake in hand, to deliver the goods. It was an exhausting experience, considering the bakery was receiving 100 orders a day. “It’s not really the most on-brand experience, it feels a little closer to a drug pickup if anything,” Nguyen says, jokingly.
This is all a long way to say a Butter& storefront has been a long time coming. After first launching the cake business from her South Potrero Hill home, then moving into the aforementioned commercial kitchen, Nguyen has finally landed the keys to the former Kin Khao spot at 690 Indiana Street in the Dogpatch. After almost two years of searching for a space, she’s found what she thinks is a suitable home for Butter& cakes to shine. “A big reason for this space was that the Butter& team [said] it’d be really nice to be able to be on the first floor of a building, where we can create an experience for our amazing customers, who are just really caring people who really love what our brand stands for,” Nguyen says.
The new Butter& store will retain the same look and feel as the previous iterations of the space, since the design still fits within the brand’s aesthetic, Nguyen said on the Pastel blog. Instead, she told Eater SF the team will focus on outfitting the kitchen with baking equipment, such as upgrading their ovens and adding in mixers. As for offerings, Butter& will of course focus on cake and take advance orders for pickup at the shop, but will also have a limited amount of cakes on display for same-day pickup — at first. They’re also experimenting with cake sizes ahead of the opening, working on a single-serving cake that Nguyen says is not a cupcake, but a cake “in a format that is very in line with the Butter& aesthetic.” And while Nguyen says the storefront won’t be launching a coffee program, instead they’re considering a tea service for beverage offerings.
But beyond the cakes having a home, Nguyen is eager for the shop to also be a place for the Butter& team to shine. The space will be an “open production pastry kitchen” where customers can see the team at work making cakes, an experience she feels is lost by the faceless online ordering system. Nguyen’s proud of the company’s mission to be “people-centric” and strides to be “the best employer in the food industry,” pointing to the fact that the team has an ownership stake in the company, full time salaried folks have stock options, 100% company contributions to health care plans, and three months of company-sponsored mental health therapy. “We really want to get to a point where everyone has a creative time so that we can continually innovate and push the Butter& company forward,” Nguyen says. “We have grand plans for Butter& — this is store one and we hope to be able to start looking into opening up store two in LA next year.”