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Urban Bread Serves Up Fresh Loaves and Personal Service on 18th Street

Urban Bread owner Tina Robertson displays the many different kinds of fresh loaves for sale at her business on the corner of Sanchez and 18th streets. The majority of the bread is cooked fresh daily at her family’s bakery in South San Francisco.

By Kyla Calvert

Walking into Urban Bread at 18th and Sanchez streets on a Saturday morning, expect to find the store’s tables occupied with neighborhood residents and the cashier behind the counter addressing many of them, and their dogs, by name.

The bread store opened on Nov. 7, and is already filling a unique niche as the area’s only outlet for fresh-baked artisan bread and pastries and a neighborhood café for spending a quiet weekend morning.

Customers at Urban Bread can choose from 15 varieties of bread and 25 pastries. Most of the bread and all of the pastries come from Raymond’s Sourdough Bread, which has been baking in South San Francisco for 15 years and is owned by Urban Bread owner Tina Robertson’s family.

The store is also the city’s only retail outlet for the Potrero Hill bakery, Panorama, which provides the remaining varieties of bread. A rotating menu of made-to-order sandwiches is also available.

“The Castro is a great neighborhood to run this kind of business because people here really appreciate high-quality food,” explained Robertson, about the location of what she calls the first Urban Bread store. “We have really good bread and decided we should also provide really good, strong coffee to give people who come to have a pastry or sandwich a café experience.”

All of the coffee is fair-trade, organic and the baked goods are free of preservatives. To serve the smaller households that typify the Castro, most of the breads are large enough for two servings so customers can finish them in the one or two days they are fresh. There is no day-old, discount shelf for breads in the store because at the end of the day leftover items are donated to a neighborhood homeless shelter and a senior center.

“We already have several regulars and I think that’s because they get the sense that I really do want to be a part of this community. I’ve always thought that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” Robertson said, of the store’s familiar feel and her own commitment to knowing her clientele.

“The best part of this business for me is trying to learn everyone’s names, their pets’ names and what they like.”

“I would say that this is the best incarnation of the kind of business that has been in this location as long as I have been living in the area,” said Urban Bread neighbor and regular Heather Pena (Philz Coffee recently left the store now occupied by Robertson’s business).

“The coffee is great, the breads are great, but we come here all the time because of Tina. She renovated the space and gave it ambiance,” added Pilar Dellano. “It was like ‘Extreme Makeover: Bakery Edition.’ You can really see all of the love she has put into this place.”

Robertson, like most of the Castro’s residents, is a transplant contributing to building community in her new home.

She left her hometown of Seattle to drive her motorcycle to Panama and back but never made the last 800 miles of her round-trip journey, leaving behind the rainy weather and a position as president of a bakery supply company.

While she lives in South San Francisco next to the Raymond’s Sourdough Bread bakery, you can find her behind the counter or chatting with customers at Urban Bread five or six days a week.

“San Francisco and Seattle have a food culture in common, which I love,” Robertson said. “And, I wanted to be able to work and get out and surf on the same day, which I can do living here.”

Urban Bread is located at 3901 18th Street and is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week. (415) 552-8378.