Did Simply Bread Bite Off More Than It Could Chew?

Categories: Laudig

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​Why did Simply Bread simply close its doors a little over a week ago, when business seemed so robust? Why are 87 people now suddenly out of a job? The official word is that the bakery's Michigan-based bank is to blame.

However, I've been talking to lots of local restaurant owners who wonder if the bakery got too big for its baguettes, er, britches.

A lot of these same folks were caught off-guard when the bakery suddenly closed the day before Valentine's Day, leaving them breadless during peak season for the industry. All were scrambling to find a new supplier.

Simply Bread started in 2006 as a niche artisanal bakery (so popular with Valley chefs that many name-dropped it on their menus with as much pride as heirloom veggies from local farms), and then blew up into a large operation that supplied 1,400 local grocery stores (including Whole Foods and AJ's) and restaurants. A little more than a year ago, it grew from a 4,000-square-foot bakery in Central Phoenix to a 20,000-square-foot bakery in Chandler. There were even plans for Simply Bread to break into the Las Vegas and California markets.

Simply Bread expanded too quickly, people tell me, but founder Harold Back was determined to make it work. Quality declined as the company grew, sources add, or else it wasn't consistent. One former fan of the bakery, who featured Simply Bread's products early on, dropped them from the menu after a barrage of frustrations.

If any of those people are to be believed, it's a tragedy that Simply Bread's quality control went to hell in a handbasket, when quality was the whole reason people loved it to begin with. It wasn't just any old mass-market bakery -- it was the little guy, an indie spot with an award-winning master baker at the helm (Jeff Yankellow). It was bread with character.

Now who'll fill the void?

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26 comments
luv2bake2
luv2bake2

Riccobonos is picking up the slack. Master baker Frank Riccobono has taken over the Chandler bakery when his Mother forclosed on Simply Bread. The largest bakery in Arizona will continue to bake the breads the Valley missed for almost three years.They will not need 80 people to run the plant. They are a Ma Pa bakery that will utilize family members. They are the only bakery that has real bakers in the family. That is why they will always be in business!

Windycityjs
Windycityjs

Do you mean that scumbag frank from Superior Baking Co? Oh great, the "piece of work" who left the Barro Partners high and dry and walked out on his own business after 10 months. That frank riccobono? That piece of crap, cheating degenerate that put up no money and skipped out on his partners, closing down Superior only to be put up for sale by Barro. If thats the same guy that will take over riccobono's father, then it will be run into the ground in no time. No one baker in Arizona has burned more people than this greedy sack of crap. Mr. Riccobono senior sold the business to Harold because of frank. Frank did more damage to his father's bakery than any competitor could ever do. So get off your high horse. Knowing this bum is nothing to be proud of. Don't take my word for it. Ask any bakery or bakery mechanic in town.

COCO PAZZO
COCO PAZZO

Clearly you must of crossed paths with this piece of crap.  With all the people Frank burned over the years, you would think he would play it straight since taking over his father's bakery.  No chance for this sub-human dirt bag.  Last August, he borrowed $384,000 from his mother.  Months later he still makes her pay all the deposits at the bakery.  $80,000 later Frank still needs more money.  He never paid his mother any rents. He leveraged his mother into foreclosure by not making the monthly payments.  Meanwhile going to casinos 5 nights a week.  He then convinced  his mother to fire her lawyer only to hire his lawyer.  They force Mrs. Riccobono to signing over the deed to the land and building.  Fantastic.  Mrs. Riccobono has worked her entire life only to have nothing left.  In June he even forced his mother to take out a home equity loan and takes $175,000 for himself.  A month later the bakery is threatening foreclosure.  He tells his mother he paid back John Barro with the money..  Only problem is he doesn't.  Lives and parties like a rock star.  He was heard screaming at his mother saying "I am not paying you a dime!"  "This is my bakery!"  A real class act. Stealing the bakery from his own mother and putting her in financial ruin.  Leaving her a home loan she cannot ever pay back on social security.  I heard is business is so bad and the bread is so dreadful, they are making dog biscuits now.  Let's see how long this lasts. 

mlife
mlife

It is such a disgrace what Frank has done to his family.  Its true and so sad.  Frank embezzled all of his mother's money.  Mrs. Riccobono lost her house.  Frank took all the furniture too.  Frank never paid back any loans he took out in his mother's name.  She couldn't pay much on social security.  How does this dirtbag get  away with this?

Simoneb
Simoneb

 ITS OFFICIAL.  Frank ran his mother's bakery into the ground.  He is in default and lost all his mother's money.  Its in FORECLOSURE.  Way to go!  Only frank can collapse a business so fast.

Simoneba
Simoneba

He said he was going to open up 10 pizza franchises around here in one year. Only one opened up though. Then he left after 6 months. I used to buy food there. I used to buy bread at his parents place too. When ever me or my wife went there he was always yelling at his father. There would be arguments there you would see like on the sopranos. Sometimes we waited outside to let the yelling be over. Never understood all the angst going on at that place. Its crazy how a bakery could be so hostile. His father seemed like a nice man. He always gave my kids cookies. We bought bread there for years.

Oliver
Oliver

Jonathan Robins Bakery is silently taking up the slack - BEST bread around by far!!

SAMUEL
SAMUEL

Jonathan paid Harold for recipes, customer list and equipment. Behind the investors backs. Harold will be in prison before you know it.He is being investigated for security fraud, Ponsie Scheme! 8.5 million dollars ??? Where is it Harold??? You owe everyone in town so where is the money Harold you Crook??????

AZBaker
AZBaker

I just read jonathan robins comment, Thats why i just keep my mouth shut if I don't know all the facts...

sunshine kellie
sunshine kellie

Why even bother post anything if your not going to give an opinion?

Jonathan Robins
Jonathan Robins

Hi, This is Jonathan from Jonathan Robins Bakery. Andrea you seem to know an awful lot about Simply Bread. You know nothing about me and my bakery. Give me a call we can discuss it 480 921 4161. If you have a clue about baking you would know, good bakers do not need to buy recipes, it's just bread, not rocket science. Secondly if you had a clue about the bakery business, buying a customer list does not guarantee anything. Why would I have wasted money doing that. I stand behind my products and it looks like others do too. Why would I buy equipment that has a lien on it, perhaps there will be an auction. Thanks call me anytime.

I lv 2 bake
I lv 2 bake

Really? Jonathan Robins bakery Paid Harold (simply Bread) For Recipes? i did some research and found that Jonathan Robins bakery won Best Kalamata Bread in Phoenix and went to www.jonathanrobinsbakery.com and notice that they have over 2000 items in they're product list posted online and have been doing bussiness for over 15 years... Andrea, Has a baker (assuming that you are Andrea Smeraldo) you should know that recipes don't mean anything, the process and the passion for baking, baking from your heart!! is what really matter.... Jonathan Robins Bakery Paid for recipes?? I born in a bakery and went to same Baking school that Jeff use to Teach (and is going too, I think)..... if you need recipes, go online!! or buy a book!! (I recommend you, Advanced bread and pastry a professional approach, by Michael Saus, SFI President) or ask me lol, NO BAKER NEEDS TO PAID A PENNY FOR RECIPES!!!! (Im sure that you agree with me Becky)....... Sincerely..... ilv2bake

Perfectstorm63
Perfectstorm63

hmmm... Samuel is really Andrea? Then you post half truths... shame on you! Perhaps you worked at Simply Bread? Got an axe to grind?

Max
Max

Who are you?, you seem to know so much. Where is this bread connection?

Gbonous
Gbonous

He sure did. Harold was the reason he drove the bakery into the ground. I am not sure how he lasted this long. It was inevitable. When he first bought Riccobono's Bakery, he came over with about 12 armed body guards in two armored suburbans. Really? There were goons with machine guns in a wholesale bakery. What an arrogant bastard!.

Harold has the personality of a piranha. He turned the bakery into Stalag 17. He changed the Riccobono's recipe in the first two days. He created such a harsh environment, it was hard to walk the fine line. He implemented policies and regulations that you would find in weapons manufacturing plant. He made remodeling changes and bought equipment he did not need. With the million dollar equipment that was already there, he could grown it ten fold and produce about 10 million dollars in annual sales. Yeah, but he had to be a BIG SHOT. Raised minimum orders to outlandish levels, shortened daily order call in times and made it anti-restaurant friendly. The smooth facade of professionalism wore off into a polished turd. Then the polish came off. Employees were often mistreated and had their salaries reduced. Losing customers left and right. Crappy bread. Where was that high falluten Olympian baker when it really counted. When over 80 employees can't make nice piece of bread, you deserve to go out business. Mr. Riccobono did it with only 17 and he made the best breads. Don't believe that 1400 customers nonsensical hype. That's the spin department talking. That would translate to at least 21 to 25 million dollars per year. If Harold couldn't pay his flour bill and employees with that kind of Trump money; he deserved to fail. But, that's not the case. The customer base was dwindling. Drivers were coming back by 8 to 9 am. Trucks were not even loaded half full.

Michigan banks my ass!! His Stalinist regime approach to the wholesale bread market bit him by the short hairs. He should of been more respectful and appreciative to restaurant owners and managers. He had none. But Joseph Stalin would of been proud. The metro Phoenix restaurants have no room for a bread czar.

CC
CC

I could never understand all the kudos. Every loaf I ever bought, regardless of where I got it, was charred, I mean CHARRED, on the bottom.

Andrea
Andrea

The Bread Connection will fill the void. Owner Becky Smeraldo former owner of European Bakery since 1993 will open in 2011. Becky was with Simply Bread for two years as Sales Director. Harold Back came to Becky Smeraldo in 2008 with an offer for her bakery. The timing was good for Mr. Back. Mario Smeraldo, Becky's husband had recently died so he saw an opportunity to take advantage of a vulnerable widow. Mr Back wanted to purchase European Bakery when he purchased Riccobono plant in Chandler. Mr. Back fired Riccobono family members after he closed the deal. Mr. Back had European Bakery moved into the Riccobono plant but never paid for it. She brought in sales that Mr. Back could not even keep up with her commission, due to his inexperience in the bakery field. Now Becky will open again and help out unemployed workers from Simply Bread. Customers that want quality they grew to know. Troy Klock will be General Manager for The Bread Connection. Mr. Back fired both Troy and Becky Decmber 3,2010 when she turned down an offer from Mr. Back to purchase Simply Bread.

Ok..
Ok..

What the?..That's a weird kind of advertising..

Sylvester Mary
Sylvester Mary

This is the best news I've heard since 2/14. Becky is very talented and knows how to work with people. She will be a asset to the food community and, I'm sure, WILL NEVER CHEAT her employees.

Concerned
Concerned

Word is that Harold ran that place into the ground with dishonest business practices, immoral personal and business decisions, not making payments to vendors, and worse. He deserves to go to prison but for some reason no one "in the know" pushes it. I tend to wonder if he has dirt on the people that would and threatens them not to.

ExpertShot
ExpertShot

Dirt is the reason, just not the kind you think. See, all these business owners that are competing in this "free enterprise" capitalist system "do dirty" to make their profits. Cheating and immoral behavior are standard behavior in America's business system, it's how most of our millionaires became "rich." The exception is the hard worker who treats their employees right and get's ahead by being an honest broker.

The business people that behave immorally don't like to see their own prosecuted for the same crimes they engage in. That's the secret.

It's time to remove the limitation of liability for owners of corporate stock that States subsidize businesses with. It's an unfair advantage over the sole proprietorship and these corporate owners are abusing the trust that we grant them through that law.

The Real
The Real

This is the 2nd or 3rd time I read this "bank is to blame" routine. Think about that. What does that mean exactly? So they ran out of capital & needed a loan? How many times? If that's happening with a small business it's the banks fault?

Desert Cat
Desert Cat

I was just speaking with a local restaurant owner today who was saying that from what he had heard, Harold Back had gotten way in over his head financially when the company acquired the Chandler facility. With the decline in product quality also happening, this was a sure-fire recipe for disaster.

Anthony R
Anthony R

We have MJ, BreadCrafters and John Anthony's Italian Bakery to pick up the slack.

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