Noah’s-Starbucks Pairing May Hit the Spot in Oakland

by Lori Olszewski, in the April 6, 1996 SF Chronicle

In a story as warm as a cup of coffee with a toasted bagel, residents of an Oakland neighborhood have persuaded Noah’s New York Bagels to open a store on Lakeshore Avenue in September, and Starbucks Coffee may move in next door.

The new site would be just one of several new Noah’s-Starbucks pairings in the Bay Area since Seattle-based Starbucks bought a 20 percent share of the San Leandro-based bagel company in March 1995.

But the possible East Bay venture has a different genesis — it started with a Lakeshore shopper who was tired of driving to Montclair for her bagels.

The shopper, Sally Ackerly of the Crocker Highlands neighborhood in Oakland, joined forces with the Greater Mandana Action Committee, a neighborhood group, and collected 1,200 to 1,700 signatures on petitions asking Noah’s to open its second Oakland store on Lakeshore.

“I kept watching more and more empty storefronts spring up along Lakeshore and at the same time I knew I was trekking over to Montclair for my bagels (where Noah’s currently has a store),” Ackerly said. “Lakeshore seemed like a perfect location to me.”

At a block party, Ackerly mentioned her idea to her neighbor, Paul Soulier, who happens to be the controller for Noah’s. Noah’s had considered the general Lakeshore location before and decided against it, but Soulier suggested it might fly if Ackerly could show substantial support.

In December, Ackerly and others began collecting signatures on their petitions on Saturdays and during a spattering of early evenings from their headquarters — a card table between Peet’s Coffee and a produce market on the Lakeshore strip.

Ackerly also tapped into the community associated with St. Paul’s Episcopal School, where her husband is headmaster, and put out a call for supporters on the Internet.

In February, Ackerly packaged up the massive pile of petitions with a photograph of her daughter eating a bagel and sent it off to Noah’s. The unusual marketing strategy worked.

“It’s an amazing thing. I certainly had never seen anything like it before,” said Chris Baker, whose Noah’s business card identifies him as “the real estate guy.” Baker confirmed Noah’s is heading toward a lease at the 3347 Lakeshore Avenue site, and Starbucks may move in next door.

“Usually it’s my job to find the site,” said Baker with a chuckle. “If everyone starts doing it this way, I could find myself out of work.”

The location still needs city approvals and permits, and Starbucks publicly is less firm about the Lakeshore location than Noah’s. Jeanne McKay, speaking for Starbucks, said the Lakeshore location is one of a handful of Oakland sites Starbucks is considering. Last month, the coffee maker withdrew plans for a new store in the city’s Glenview district after residents protested, saying they feared increased traffic and parking problems.

“We haven’t signed a lease yet,” said McKay. “We do have a great relationship with Noah’s and want to explore this with them.”

Oakland City Councilman John Russo said yesterday that the two companies have met with the city and that he expects that the necessary conditional use permit will be approved by the Planning Commission.

“There have been a number of vacancies on Lakeshore. This is an important investment and a signal of resurgence in the area,” Russo said. “The neighborhood is behind them.”

There already are two coffee sellers on the Lakeshore strip — Peet’s and Lakeshore Coffee Roasters. Ackerly said she and others in the Mandana neighborhood group were a bit worried about the effect on existing businesses when Starbucks entered the picture.

“None of us wanted to do anything that would threaten any other business on Lakeshore,” Ackerly said. “We talked about it and decided to still back it with Starbucks because we believe it will be a needed boost to the area. In the long-term, it will bring more people in and all the businesses along Lakeshore will benefit.”