Reem Assil, owner of Reem’s, started her career as a community organizer doing direct organizing and policy work to help Oakland residents achieve equity and prosperity. She decided to shift her career, but before she decided what to do next, she traveled to the Middle East. “I saw how much street corner bakeries are community-builders, and how they lift up the community,” remembers Reem. “That inspired me to build what I wanted to see in Oakland.”
Reem’s is an Arab street corner bakery. They bring the warmth of Arab hospitality through fresh baked bread. Their specialty is man’oushe, a topped flatbread that you can share with friends or fold up and eat on the go, akin to a slice of pizza or burrito.
Reem’s began in April 2015 as part of La Cocina’s food incubator program. They launched at one farmer’s market, and they now operate regularly at four Bay Area farmer’s markets and their brick and mortar bakery at the Fruitvale transit village has been open since May 2017. Reem’s has 20 employees who support both the bakery and the farmer’s market aspects of the business.
Reem’s isn’t just a business. At the heart of the work is a desire to pursue social justice. All of Reem’s leadership team come from a social justice background, and their shared focus around fighting xenophobia comes through the daily work at Reem’s.
The loan from Main Street Launch was specifically earmarked to hire people who run the daily work at Reem’s. Their dynamic team is at the heart of Reem’s goal of cultivating Arab hospitality. “The money let us invest in staff training early on. That helped us start the business off right,” says Reem.
“The loan helped us make sure we had enough cash on hand. By having that money available, I could trust our hiring process and have enough staff to make the business work from the beginning,” explains Reem. “The real benefit of working with Main Street Launch was all the support we’ve received outside of the loan. Their staff came to our grand opening, helped give us some additional exposure, and they market us to their network of supporters. Having that personal relationship also made the loan process less daunting.”
Reem offers advice to entrepreneurs considering starting a business: “Double your estimated expenses. Construction took us twice as long as we planned for, which resulted in lost revenue since we couldn’t open until it was done. Our resource network has also been critical for our growth. I worked with Centro Community Partners, ICA Fund Good Jobs, and La Cocina, and those groups help me look at my numbers and create a plan to minimize expenses while growing sales. Working with people who have started a business before makes a big difference.”
Reem’s is waiting on their beer & wine license and they are going to offer dinner service soon, so follow them on social media for their updates. Reem’s is also available for rentals. Host an event with live music, enjoy their patio, or bring your popup to Reem’s. Contact them for more details.
Photo credit: Andria Lo