Le Marais manager Stéphanie Faurax was working at a feverish pace, folding crepes during Wednesday’s lunch rush just two days after a vicious break-in caused the business to lose thousands of dollars.
When thieves broke into the bakery Monday, they drilled through its safe to steal cash, ripped out iPads and tablets used for DoorDash orders and point-of-sales systems, and left the shop in a state of disarray. Faurax estimates it has cost the business roughly $8,000 so far.
Without their usual computer aids, workers were whirling in and out of the kitchen with handwritten receipt orders while Faurax furiously fashioned food orders.
But the burglary had a larger effect than lost money, goods and inconvenience. Faraux and the community around her are beyond frustrated with the crime in the area, and the fact that the burglars got away so easily gave her misgivings about the city in general.
“We don’t feel safe in San Francisco,” Faraux said. “I wish the police would do something.”
Faurax said that this is the sixth burglary at that location, four of them happening in the past six months. San Francisco police said that there were two reported burglaries at the bakery in 2022, including one in October and one on Monday.
‘This shit just pisses me off’
Local patrons said they were frustrated by the repeat burglaries at the Castro bakery.
“This shit just pisses me off. It’s gotta stop,” said Le Marais customer Tyson Wrensch.
Wrensch, who lives in Opera Plaza, said he went to the bakery that day to support the business after the theft. He returned to San Francisco in 2020 after a 15-year stint in Las Vegas, before that, he spent 10 years in SF.
“It’s sad to see what the city has become since I left,” Wrensch said. “I’m a liberal, but this has to stop. We have to crack down.”
Castro residents Spencer Garrett and Cory Scott said they also came to Le Marais after hearing about the theft.
“Because of the headlines, we wanted to support this place,” said Scott, who lives with Garrett a few blocks away.
“Certainly, when I heard about it, I felt disappointment and frustration,” Garrett said. “It’s hard to hear about because people put a lot of work into this place.”
Dave Karraker, head of the Castro Merchants Association, said theft at small businesses had impacted the morales of shop owners around the Castro.
“It’s created an environment where as a small business you’re constantly worried about the safety of your business, your employees,” said Karraker.
Bretchen Towers, a bartender at Castro bar The Mix, said that after hearing about the burglary of Le Marais, he’s worried about his personal safety.
“As someone who leaves [work] at 3 a.m., it’s worrisome,” Towers said.
Kokak Chocolates sits across the street from Le Marais, and that store, too, has been broken into.
Chocolate maker Carlo, who declined to give a last name, said that about 18 months ago someone smashed in the glass of Kokak’s front door and forced open the cash register.
“I just think it’s common in San Francisco. If you have a storefront, it will be broken into,” Carlo said.
Karraker said that for small businesses that were closed during Covid, the financial loss from a burglary can be hard to bear.
“Coming out of a pandemic, an incident like this is completely devastating,” Karraker said.
Calls for City Action
Le Marais co-owner Patrick Ascaso called on the city to act after the burglary in an Instagram post Tuesday, showing his shop had been ransacked.
“If you cannot protect San Francisco’s small, local, family-owned businesses, how can our city thrive?” Ascaso wrote, tagging Mayor London Breed, Gov. Gavin Newsom and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Karraker said City Hall should issue recovery funds to small businesses that are broken into. The funds could enable businesses to install advanced security systems and replace point-of-sale computers.
The city has offered relief to businesses in the past. In September 2021, San Francisco established a grant program to help small businesses fix broken windows and security cameras. It was an increasing issue as burglaries ticked up 65% between 2019 and 2020, according to SFPD’s crime data dashboard.
Castro Supervisor Rafael Mandelman helped create the grant program, but said what’s even more important than offering increased financial help is to hire more police to prevent crimes from happening.
“I would like to see the city able to offer more assistance, but the most important thing is to reduce property crime in general,” Mandelman said. “We have some hard budget choices ahead, and we need to prioritize safety.”
Karraker also called for an increased police presence in the Castro, and for harsher criminal penalties for people who burglarize businesses, particularly repeat offenders.
“If the city can’t protect us, they need to support us in some fashion,” Karraker said.
SFPD data also shows that burglaries are on track to be lower this year than they were in 2021.
Mandelman said he plans to meet with the owners of Le Marais next week to hear their concerns and answer questions.
The SF District Attorney’s Office said in an email that the Le Marais break-in “is one more painful reminder of the impact that burglaries and retail theft have on our small businesses and neighborhoods.”
The office went on to say that it would file criminal charges if an arrest were made and enough evidence were presented.
SFPD Sergeant Adam Lobsinger confirmed that San Francisco police officers responded Tuesday to Le Marais at approximately 8:08 a.m. on a report of a burglary.
Lobsinger said that the burglary is still an open investigation and that there have been no arrests.
In spite of the repeated theft, Faurax felt invigorated looking at the crowd of customers who came to eat her crepes Wednesday.
“We were busy today; our community came to support us. It’s therapeutic,” Faurax said.
Garrett Leahy can be reached at [email protected]