This week, Sweet Bar Bakery founder-owner Mani Niall announced that he has sold his six-year-old bakery in Uptown Oakland. The good news for Sweet Bar fans, according to Niall, is that the new owners plan to keep the bakery operating.
Nosh spoke with Niall on the phone who said the new owners are already running the bakery, with Niall helping with the transition.
While Niall was unable to reveal the identities of his successors, he did say that they are brothers from the area, one with coffee roasting experience working at Artís and Tartine, the other who owned and operated a bagel shop. For now, the brothers plan to keep the current Sweet Bar menu and team, but eventually plan to bring bagels and coffee roasting to the business.
“I can’t speak for them,” Niall said, “but they realize continuity and stability are important.”
Niall opened Sweet Bar in 2012, taking over the space last occupied by the Mimosa Champagne Lounge, but more famously, the building that once housed MacFarlane’s Candy and Ice Cream. For its grand opening, a flash mob danced to “Thriller,” which references Niall’s stint as Michael Jackson’s personal chef in the ’80s. Over the last six years, Sweet Bar has become a local favorite for Uptown residents and workers, not only for its organic, artisan baked goods, but for its locally roasted coffee and fresh, savory food offerings like sandwiches, salads and soups.
As for why Niall is moving on, he said that he had been looking for ways to make the business sustainable for the long term. He considered partnerships and collaborations, but when neither panned out, he decided to sell.
Sweet Bar is the second bakery that he created and eventually moved on from. He opened his first, Mani’s Bakery in Los Angeles, in 1989. At the time, it was one of the first in the area to offer organic baked goods with health and dietary concerns in mind. That meant treats made with natural sweeteners, or ones that were vegan, wheat-free and fat-free. Mani’s Bakery became a bit of a sensation, even garnering a following from Hollywood celebrities, but eventually, Niall decided to move on. He sold the bakery to a business partner, who kept the bakery running for another 12 years.
“I’m more the creative type than the managerial type. I started one bakery that had a much longer shelf-life than my involvement. That’s my sincerest hope for them as well with Sweet Bar,” Niall said.
As for what’s next for Niall, don’t expect another bakery any time soon. “I have some irons in the fire that are probably not that retail-oriented,” he said. Right now, he’s thinking of doing all the things he couldn’t do while running a bakery: “Sleeping in, catching up on my New Yorkers, traveling up and down the state, and actually going to see my family on Thanksgiving instead of just making pies ’til 2 p.m.”