Historic kosher bakery in Oakland sold for $1

On Feb. 19, 2024, Bear Silber closed on the deal to purchase the historic Grand Bakery for $1, The Grand is considered the oldest and possibly the last kosher bakery in the Bay Area. (Bear Silber)

An Oakland man is now the new owner of what’s believed to be the Bay Area's oldest and possibly the last kosher bakery, acquiring the business for $1.

Last month, Bear Silber closed the deal on the historic Grand Bakery, taking over the wholesale business from Sam Tobis.

As KTVU reported last October, Tobis bought Grand Bakery from Bob Jaffe in 2017, but decided to sell the business because he's also a partner at Saul's Restaurant and Deli in Berkeley, and he felt he didn't have time to operate two businesses. 

So Tobis put out a call for a lucky new owner to take over the bakery at the Fruitvale location for a bargain $1. The most important thing for Tobis was to find the right buyer. 

Interested parties were asked to write an essay describing themselves, their qualifications, along with why they want to own a bakery.

The essays poured in, with well over 200 submissions. 

SEE ALSO: SF mainstay Lee's Deli shops close its doors for good

Silber said when he heard of the news that Grand was up for sale, he jumped at the chance and personally reached out to Tobis, whom he knew from previous business dealings. 

In the end, Silber was chosen to carry on the Grand tradition of selling Jewish baked goods. 

The $1 he paid for the business included customer accounts and recipes, though he's had to make additional investments in equipment and inventory. And he said he's maintained mostly the same staff and customer routes. 

Silber has owned a number of other Bay Area businesses, including Powell’s Sweet Shoppe, and he comes from a family with knowledge of running a highly successful kosher bakery.

In the early 1900s, his great-grandparents established a popular Jewish bakery chain in Baltimore called Silber’s. The business expanded to dozens of retail outlets, before it eventually closed its doors in 1979.

Now Silber said he hoped to revive the family’s business legacy as part of the new business, giving Silber's some lasting power.  

"I would love to bring back Silber’s," Grand’s new owner said. 

Other changes he hoped to make were widening the bakery’s reach and broadening its clientele to include more grocers.

Additionally, he hoped to expand the bakery's offerings to include kosher dairy products, like babka and rugelach.

And also down the road, he has designs on opening a retail shop, as he'd like to create a space for wholesale with a retail portion. 

"That is my comfort zone," Silber said, adding, "I love being in the community and forward-facing. Everything I've done has been that way."

When asked about how he would describe himself professionally, he shied away from the term "entrepreneur," and said he'd rather think of himself as being "in the service of bringing people joy."