It may have made a certain kind of San Francisco sense when you heard the announcement in April that two of the city's most successful food brands of the last decade, Tartine Bakery and Blue Bottle Coffee, were going to join forces. After all, pastry goes with coffee and vice versa, and we had just seen the acquisition of La Boulange by Starbucks in a larger-scale though much less hip version of this idea. But what started as an a-ha conversation between Tartine's Chad Robertson and Blue Bottle founder James Freeman, itself borne out of a misunderstanding in the New York Times, has now, eight months later, fizzled and flopped. As the two said in a joint statement, the two companies interests just weren't quite aligned, and they've "decided that remaining separate companies makes the most sense.”
Along with co-owner and wife Elisabeth Prueitt, Robertson explained to the Chronicle, "Our individual plans would be better served pursuing them independently. Coffee infrastructure doesn’t really support food and food infrastructure doesn’t really support coffee.”
Rumors had swirled in recent weeks that the merger plan was not progressing that swimmingly, and many wondered how Tartine planned to scale up an operation whose scalability was a far more complicated and delicate procedure than Blue Bottle's has been, at least in theory. While Blue Bottle has expanded to Tokyo, New York, and L.A., with more likely in store, Tartine's expansion plans had so far been slower and more modest, with their large Tartine Manufactory headed to the Heath Ceramics complex at 18th and Alabama (due next spring), and one new location opened in Tokyo with the help of some former Bay Area staff. There's been discussion of Tartine's desire to expand elsewhere, like London, New York, and L.A., but that had not come to fruition yet, and perhaps it was the business acumen of Freeman and the resources of the Blue Bottle company that made the deal attractive to them.
Clearly it was Tartine that might have something to lose in all this, though, given that it was a win-win for Blue Bottle who would get to automatically up their food game. And it sounds like it was Robertson and Prueitt who put the breaks on this, but the exact ins and outs of how the deal went south aren't likely to be made public.
Nonetheless, the news has prompted some jokes on Twitter, such as...
Blue Bottle got tired of waiting in that Tartine line https://t.co/uLx47Xx0uk— Rita Hao (@rah56) December 4, 2015
COLDBREW420 GETS THE INSIDE SCOOP ON THE BLUE BOTTLE / TARTINE DIVORCE pic.twitter.com/RWTQTtiy7x— COLDBREW420 (@coldbrew420) December 4, 2015