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Food & Drink

San Francisco bakery finally lands a store after rare pandemic success

A wicker basket dangles next to signs for a bakery.
Bernal Bakery opened during the pandemic and served its first loaves by pulley and wicker basket on Wright Street. | Source: Courtesy Bernal Bakery

Bernal Bakery began in the dark days of 2020 when laid-off San Francisco chefs Ryan Stagg and Daniella Banchero garnered national attention for turning pandemic lemons into lemon-scented pastries. Baking out of their Bernal Heights kitchen, the duo took orders for fresh-baked country loaves and chocolate chip cookies, lowering them to customers on the street in a wicker basket affixed to a pulley. 

The baked goods became a big hit, and the offerings kept expanding—along with the places where you could pick them up, including grocery stores, farmers’ markets and pop-ups. Now Stagg and Banchero have another milestone to celebrate: landing a permanent, brick-and-mortar space on Cortland Avenue. 

“It’s brought a lot to us both professionally and personally,” Stagg said of the business. Since the bakery began in 2020, the couple have married and had their first child—something he said would not have been affordable without the business’s success. 

A line of donuts banana bread an muffins stand on tissue paper.
Bernal Bakery expanded its offerings to include seasonally available items like apple cider donuts, banana bread, muffins and cinnamon rolls. | Source: Courtesy Bernal Bakery

While Banchero has returned to full-time work at Dogpatch’s Piccino restaurant, Stagg will helm the new business under a new name: the Bernal Basket. It’s a callback to the bakery’s original operation and a nod to the larger array of offerings at the new café, located in the former Little Bee Baking space. 

Stagg still has the original basket that lowered so much carb comfort to so many Bernal neighbors. He’s thought about using it as a sign for the new business, though “it might be a little too sentimental to hang outside,” he said. 

The wholesale component of Bernal Bakery will continue under the same name, with its laminated pastries and toothsome loaves available across the Bay Area. 

The new bakery, expected to open in the beginning of March, will also serve sandwiches, soups and pizza. Bernal Bakery’s most popular item has been its Roman pizzas, which are purchased parbaked and finished at home. “I can’t make enough of them,” Stagg said. 

A pizza is in a shrink-wrapped plastic package.
Bernal Bakery's most popular item as of late has been its Roman Pizza Al Taglio, which owner Ryan Stagg said he has trouble keeping in stock. | Source: Courtesy Bernal Bakery

The new digs don’t signal the end of the Little Bee Baking, either. Owner Stacie Pierce will continue baking out of her commissary kitchen, eventually offering classes and other events for the community through the Cortland Collective at 1501 Cortland Ave. Pierce’s bakery had been in the space for 10 years, and she was looking for a change of pace. 

“It became overwhelming to manage both the retail and wholesale,” she said. “And I get to pass the keys to someone who is going to flourish.” 

Given that Bernal Bakery had already been selling some of its items as a pop-up at Little Bee Baking, customers have been primed for the change. The space itself only needs light renovations and painting to bring it up-to-date. 

“The transition to Ryan and his crew is so seamless,” Pierce said.