S.F. cult cruffin favorite Mr. Holmes Bakehouse has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy

Mr. Holmes Bakehouse, the cult San Francisco bakery that went mysteriously dark after a brief reopening last summer, has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and its CEO is no longer with the company.

All bakery operations, including the location on Larkin Street in San Francisco and an outpost in Los Angeles, have closed for now, according to former CEO Aaron Caddel. Court documents show the company filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in February. It’s a watershed moment for the wildly popular bakery known for its Instagrammable cruffins (a croissant-muffin hybrid), long lines and meteoric rise.

Caddel said he was no longer involved with the business after an acquisition failed in the wake of the pandemic. A coffee company, which Caddel declined to name, acquired Mr. Holmes Bakehouse in late 2019, and they planned to join forces to start a craft coffee and baking business, Caddel said. He placed all of Mr. Holmes Bakehouse’s assets in a new company as part of the acquisition.

Then, when the coronavirus hit a few months later, the coffee company pulled out of the sale, Caddel said, leaving him to pick up the pieces of a company in which he was no longer a majority shareholder. The Chronicle contacted lawyers for the parties in bankruptcy; they did not immediately respond to maintenance requests.

“We have this business that acts out of self-preservation and then we get the little end of that stick,” Caddel said. “As expected, our investors got angry and litigation ensued against the acquiring company.”

Externally, however, Mr Holmes Bakehouse appeared to be making things work in the early months of the pandemic. Within 24 hours of closing retail operations, Caddel launched an online store and nationwide shipping, selling home cooking kits that have become extremely popular. Stores in San Francisco and Los Angeles briefly reopened for pickup and delivery last June.

But then the company’s normally hyperactive social media pages fell silent. Messages from customers asking when the bakeries would return went unanswered. The Larkin Street bakery remained dark, its storefront completely covered in graffiti. Company emails bounced and Mr Holmes’ website was taken down.

Mr. Holmes Bakehouse on Larkin Street in San Francisco on May 21, 2021.

Elena Kadvany / The Chronicle

Caddel, meanwhile, grew from the bustling bakery empire he built and had once planned to expand ambitiously across the world. Even if the legal process ends in the company’s favor, he will not return to Mr Holmes Bakehouse, he said.

Intsead, he moved to North Carolina, where he works as a consultant and in real estate. There’s no shortage of the 4-hour shifts – or the impossible balance of keeping shareholders, customers and employees happy.

“I love the hospitality, I will do it all the way, but I don’t think there will ever be a time when I will get back on the horse for the hospitality industry,” he said.

Caddel opened Mr. Holmes Bakehouse in San Francisco in 2014 with then pastry chef and co-owner Ry Stephen. The bakery’s inventive and colorful creations quickly went viral and sold frequently. They opened outposts in Los Angeles and Seoul, Korea, and expanded into wholesale. (Stephen later left and opened his own bakery, Super Moon Bakery, At New York.)

It’s unclear how these new developments will impact pre-pandemic plans to open 18 international franchises in the Middle East and Singapore.

But whatever happens with any legal action or bankruptcy proceeding, Caddel is done. He did not “put my name on any document to receive money,” he said.

“I’m the jockey everyone is betting on. It’s like the captain who has to sink with the ship, ”he said. “I’m not going back to the ship if it ever gets back up.”

Elena Kadvany is a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: elena.kadvany@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @ekadvany

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