A Thursday morning fire in the building on Fifth Street that produces Café Fanny granola, caramels, and gourmet popcorn gutted a room stocked with about $75,000 of oil and sugar.
The Berkeley Fire Department got a call about a fire in a commercial building at 1619 Fifth Street in West Berkeley at 5:52 a.m. and was on the scene by 5:57 a.m., according to Fire Chief Gil Dong. Firefighters had brought the fire under control by 6:25 a.m., he said.
The fire destroyed part of the building and badly damaged the roof. Dong estimated there was $100,000 in damage. Fire investigators are still looking for the cause.
The Fifth Street blaze was the fourth fire that Berkeley firefighters responded to in less than 24 hours, said Dong. On Wednesday, Berkeley firefighters helped with the wildfire in the hills off Grizzly Peak Boulevard, a fire at Berkeley’s transfer station, and a structure fire around 4:30 p.m. in the 900 block of The Alameda, said Dong. For the latter two fires, El Cerrito and Albany fire departments provided mutual aid. [Editor’s note: After this story was published, the fire department responded to two other fires, including a small one at Phi Gamma Delta on Piedmont Avenue and Channing Way and a fire of two trees at Aquatic Park.]
“The crews are kind of beat up from yesterday and then they had this to respond to,” said Dong.
Cassandra Chen, the co-founder of CC Made and the producer of Café Fanny granola, said the fire started in a dry storage unit. Fire officials suspect the cause may have been electrical, she said.
“Everything in that room melted or burned and in the rest of the building everything is covered in a dark soot,” said Chen. “Everything has smoke damage.”
Chen just learned from her agent that she does not have property damage, which means her company will have to absorb the $75,000 she lost when oil and about 1,000 pounds of sugar burned up. Chen has launched a Go Fund Me campaign to help her recover her losses.
The building will be shut for at least a number of weeks. Chen put out a call to the food community after the fire inquiring whether anyone had a commercial kitchen she could use or rent, she said. Chen said she had already had some responses.
“The artisanal food manufacturing community has been really supportive,” said Chen. Hopefully, we will be up and running very soon.”
Chen took over the lease on the Fifth Street building from Alice Waters after Café Fanny, which launched the granola product, closed in 2012. Chen recalled how she took over the business in a video on the Café Fanny granola website. Since then, Chen has updated the packaging and added some new varieties, including one with quinoa. She also started selling in bulk and to restaurants, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Chen also makes caramels, brittles, and sauces on the premises.
Waters opened Café Fanny with her brother-in-law Jim Maser and friend Sharon Jones in 1984 and named it after the heroine in Marcel Pagnol’s 1930s movies, as well as Waters’ daughter, who is also called Fanny.
CC Made also manufactures various brittles, flavored popcorns and caramel sauces on Fifth Street. Stores like Dean & Deluca, Bloomingdales and Bi-Rite Markets carry the products, according to the company website.
Chen worked for the Bank of America on the foreign exchange trading floor before she decided her passion lay in the food business. She eventually went to work for Traci des Jardins at the then new restaurant Jardiniere in San Francisco. She met her husband, Manuel Guzman, a wine expert there, and the two eventually created CC Made. The couple has self-financed the company, according to the Chronicle.
This article was updated after Berkeleyside spoke with Chen.