On Tuesday, November 7, an emotional Azikiwee Anderson took to Instagram to post a video. He starts by taking a deep breath. Then he launches into the difficult news: His popular San Francisco business Rize Up Bakery had been burglarized overnight. Thieves had taken the iPads the business uses to sell loaves of sourdough bread at farmer’s markets and the computer used to print its labels. The cash boxes were gone, along with the restaurant’s bank box, used to make change for customers. “It’s not the end of the world,” he says, “but it’s definitely a kick in the butt.”
According to the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), commercial burglaries in California became more prevalent during the pandemic, increasing by 15.7 percent between 2019 and 2022. The problem appears notably bad in San Francisco; last year, San Francisco County had the second-highest rate of commercial burglaries among California’s 15 largest counties, a PPIC analysis shows. However, statistics published by the San Francisco Chronicle earlier this year show that in 2022, commercial burglaries in the city of San Francisco returned to pre-pandemic 2018 levels.
What all the statistics can’t capture, however, is how a property crime impacts more than just a single owner or business. As a small enterprise baking loaves of bread for grocery stores and sandwich shops across the Bay Area, the effect of a single burglary can ripple through the restaurant and food communities. In an uplifting gesture, Rize Up fans and customers donated $19,000 in the three days following the burglary, and as of this writing, the team has resumed its normal production schedule. Here, Eater SF interviews Azikiwee Anderson, a Rize Up employee, and others in the Bay Area restaurant industry who were impacted by this single crime.
These interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.
In the early morning hours of Tuesday, November 7, an employee of Rize Up Bakery discovered that the bakery’s SoMa space at 1160 Howard Street had been broken into. A burglar pried open the garage door, gaining access to the business office, bread production floor, and walk-in refrigerators sometime after the last shift ended at 5 p.m. the day before.
Azikiwee Anderson, founder and owner of Rize Up Bakery: When I woke up at 4:30 a.m., I was met with text messages from our lead baker. “I need you to call me right away, this is an emergency.” I called him and he’s like, “The door is wide open. It looks like somebody rummaged through our things, the walk-in door was ajar.” I scrambled down there, and I prepared myself on the drive: “You can’t control anything, it’s already done. We’ll just learn from it and we’ll be okay. Everybody’s okay, that’s all that matters.”
I got there, saw what was gone — and then I started problem-solving. All of our iPads were gone, the computer was gone; the computer is what we use to print all of our labels, and so I thought, “How are we going to do without this stuff?” The team started showing up, and we started talking about things. We need to call the police. We need to call the insurance. Literally from the moment I got there, I was in this daze. What do I need to do? Who should I call? What should I be doing? That, in itself, is stressful. On top of that, I was supposed to be working on the floor.
Despite the burglary, Rize Up attempted to resume operations as normal, making deliveries to customers between 6:30 and 7:30 a.m., then baking bread and making new dough for loaves and baguettes.
Azikiwee Anderson (Rize Up Bakery): I was sitting in my sorrows and I thought, “I normally share all the good things, I’m a pretty positive person.” The way that I think about Instagram is that I feel like people are following my journey — when we get a brand-new oven, I show people. I thought I should let people know [about the burglary], especially our customers. So I put it out there, like, this is what’s going on.
The moment I did that, our food safety consultant saw it and that started a whole chain of events. What I didn’t realize is, the moment that someone breaches a food facility, anything that you cannot for certain say was not tampered with has to be thrown away. Half of what we sent out [for delivery] was fine because it was packaged and sealed. The other half was our demi-baguettes and hoagies, so we had to notify customers we delivered to that morning and let them know there was a possibility of things going wrong.
Knowing this, in theory, is one thing. Throwing away hundreds and hundreds of loaves that are supposed to go to customers who are counting on you — that just kind of broke my brain. At first, I was resolute, and then all [of a] sudden, I got really sad, and then I got angry. I went through all six stages of grief at once.
Erik Soderholm, floor manager at Rize Up Bakery: It was really difficult and tough. That was days of work and resources just wasted. It was pretty devastating knowing that we wasted time, and had to make up for it at the same time.
I was the main person trying to figure out how much bread to make. We put in calls to the whole team. Two people came into work later that day, which is not normal at all, other people worked extra hours the following day. It was hard to feel anything because you didn’t really know how to best move forward.
Once the Rize Up team learned that the bread had to be tossed out, Anderson made calls to clients, informing them about the burglary and food safety breach.
Liam Bonner, director of food services at Berkeley Bowl: I saw Azikiwee was calling me and he broke the news that they had been burglarized the night before. The first thing he did was apologize for not reaching out to me sooner, and the fact that was his first thought was incredible to me. The furthest thing from my mind was worrying about whether Berkeley Bowl was getting bread — my main concern was the safety of him, his team, and then also the product that he had lost. After I spoke with him, I went inside the store to make sure that the loaves that had been potentially breached were pulled off the shelves.
We get about 50 loaves a day that we sell for retail, and then on top of that, we use loaves for grilled cheese sandwiches that we do in-house and our housemade meatball sandwiches on Rize Up’s East Coast hoagie rolls. When we’re not getting certain products or all of them, it’s not only affecting the retail, it’s affecting our production capability. [That’s] about 30 sandwiches a day we weren’t able to make.
Azikiwee Anderson (Rize Up Bakery): I’m trying to not let anyone down, and so that becomes a big lift. Everything that we’re making is on a shorter time frame, and we have to make a lot of adjustments.
Rize Up clients had to choose to accept loaves produced using a shorter proofing process than usual — a day and a half, versus the usual three days — which could result in a difference in quality. The other option: to go without Rize Up bread at all.
Eric Ehler, co-owner and chef at Outta Sight Pizza: Z is very, very good at putting himself out there, but right when I saw the first second [of his video], his facial expression, I thought, “Oh, shit, something has happened.” I messaged him right away, and I said, “Whatever we can do to support you, I don’t know what that would be, but we’re here for you.”
When he called me an hour later and let me know about the wholesale issue, his voice was trembling. He was so upset, so many different emotions, but I assured him that if we don’t get [our bread delivery], people can wait. There’s nothing in the world that can rectify what happened, but we as a business can support you. We’re gonna let our customers know this happened, and if anybody would get upset that we didn’t have a product here because someone got robbed, they can go kick rocks.
We’re patient, our customers can wait. Just do your due diligence to take your time and get your shit together. But don’t feel pressured. There are so many different pressures already, just to keep your doors open any day.
Liam Bonner (Berkeley Bowl): One thing I always think about is the lingering effects of burglaries on the overall community or business. Is this gonna scare off a baker, are they now thinking about getting a different job? Or are they scared to go to work every day? As people read about all these restaurants and bakeries getting burgled, are they becoming afraid to go to these places now? Is the whole industry affected? I think the doom-loop coverage is keeping people away from certain areas [of the city], and for me, I get scared about what this is going to lead to down the road if these things keep happening and we’re not getting a lot of results or action and support from our leaders.
Back at Rize Up Bakery, the team threw away more than 360 loaves from the walk-in — plus specialty ingredients used in the bakery’s loaves, such as ube halaya, scallions, cheese, and more. Meanwhile, employees began ramping up bread production, working overtime to help make up for the lost product.
Erik Soderholm (Rize Up Bakery): In that 24-hour period, I think we were close to making 1,000 to 1,200 loaves, which is double the max we’ve ever done in a single day. So by adding on a shift and adding on a few hundred loaves to normal bakes, with extra people to help out, we were able to catch up. Really, the team stepped up and we had caught up, at least bread production-wise, the next afternoon [Wednesday, November 8].
Most of the wholesale people that we worked with were very understanding and very supportive. I saw multiple posts on Instagram about what had happened and the support behind us. People were just doing everything they could to back us up and just make sure that everyone knew what was going on, so everything was transparent. We had different restaurants that we work with that brought in staff meals for most of the week, so the support from the community was great.
Azikiwee Anderson (Rize Up Bakery): We’re a small business and we were doing decent, but if you take a week’s worth of work that you’ve paid people for, and then you have to do it all again while paying overtime, it basically turned into two weeks’ worth of work to get three days’ worth of sales. We’re at the place where we’re doing well, but we could be doing better. And when you take twice the amount of money to do the same thing — that’s bad for any business.
We will need to run our reports based on what we threw away and then what it took to make that back, to make our claim to the insurance. Between the electronics, the money, the cash boxes, and all of the thrown-away stuff that has already been paid for — then to do it again — I’m thinking we’re probably just under $30,000 [in losses]. So a basic theft turned into a big thing.
A week after the burglary, once bread production was back to normal, Anderson reflected on what his team achieved, the community, and his feelings following the break-in.
Azikiwee Anderson (Rize Up Bakery): I feel very fortunate, I feel very cared about. I’m not a very religious guy, but one of my tenets is to treat people the way that you would like to be treated, and in my life, I can’t always say that I have been treated as such. But this has proven to me and made me realize that all that we’re doing really does matter, because the outpouring of kindness and respect and camaraderie and caring that has come back our direction is everything I could ever hope for and more.
Anger or hate is when you take poison and you think it’s going to affect somebody else — but all you’re doing is poisoning yourself. I hear people saying angry stuff about this city all the time: They did this, and they did that, and they should have done this. I live in San Francisco because I love San Francisco. It’s a beautiful city and sometimes beautiful cities go through hard patches. I might be suffering, but I’m not suffering alone; I’m suffering with all the other people who really care about San Francisco and who won’t give up on it. I believe in here and I want to stay here. So you can’t hate the city that you live in because it’s not perfect for you — that’s entitled. I want to be part of whatever the good is, I wanna be part of the fabric.