Xan DeVoss began working as a professional baker in 2011, relying on a small shared space with an oven, selling bread through a subscription service. The fledgling business increased production, vending loaves to local retailers like Cafe St Jorge on Mission Street, Cove in Lower Haight, and Folsom Street’s Rainbow Grocery Cooperative. Though DeVoss found a larger rental baking space to accommodate growth, she realized that the business wasn’t generating any profits.
She joined the Bayview Underground Food Scene, a collaborative that builds community through food and beverage events, such as popup markets. Beginning in 2013 she spent Thursday evenings meeting food enthusiasts and selling loaves directly to customers at the 4634 Third Street market, continuing her engagement with the marketplace when it moved to Pier 70. Through the collaborative she met Barbara Gratta, owner of Gratta Wines; together the pair leased a retail space they named “Butchertown Gourmet,” at 5273 Third Street.
“We run completely separate businesses but share a space that has a marketplace feel,” explained DeVoss. “Butchertown Gourmet serves as a community space that was inspired by The Market at the Twitter building.”
Fox and Lion Bread Company launched in Bayview in June 2015. Starting with breakfast and lunch service, the eatery has been expanding incrementally, adding menu options and longer hours. It typically opens at 8 a.m., serving coffee, espresso, and pastries made in-house, including cinnamon rolls, for which DeVoss has received rave reviews. There’s a daily specialty bread offering, such as the popular four-grain sourdough, available Tuesdays. On Fridays patrons can order pizza by the slice most of the day, with full pies on the evening menu, complemented with a locally-brewed beer selection. Bagels are the specialty on Saturdays. Lunchtime all week long has a selection of soups, salads and specialty sandwiches, many named after neighborhood gourmands.
“I focus on quality, and am really interested in making top quality ingredients to accommodate a wide variety of clientele,” said DeVoss. “I offer competitive deals and options to customize menu items. Our signature loaf is definitely the Four-Grain Levain; it’s a sourdough made using a natural starter that’s just the right size to suit urbanites. The neighborhood demographics are changing so rapidly, but right now my biggest competition is McDonalds.”
One menu offering, “Mike’s Special,” was named after longstanding customer, Mike Yoshioka, a lover of the sandwich’s goat cheese, who’s program director for City of Dreams. The organization educates and mentors youth living in low-income housing communities. Yoshioka first met DeVoss at the Bayview Underground Food Scene popup markets at Third Street and Pier 70, and continues to buy lunch at Butchertown Gourmet. For one City of Dreams program, Yoshioka takes a group of youth on Saturday excursions, such as mountain biking trips to China Camp State Park. Stopping by Fox and Lion Bread the morning of the trips has become a tradition for the group, who pre-order their favorite sandwiches and descend upon the bakery to chat with DeVoss and pick-up the meals.
“All the kids know Xan, she’s like part of the family,” offered Yoshioka. “It’s a very youth-friendly environment. Visiting regularly has been really good for the kids in terms of their growth. Xan is a really supportive adult in their lives and they love the experience.” City of Dreams staff and youth participants also provide produce to the bakery from harvests gleaned at the Oakdale Community Center and Farm, located at 1030 Oakdale Avenue.
DeVoss recently added lunch service on Mondays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and stays open later into the evening the rest of the week, excluding Saturdays, closing at 2 p.m. and Sundays, the only day the bakery takes a rest. Though initially working with a single employee, the extension in hours accompanied the hiring of three additional staff.
DeVoss attributes much of her success to the hard work and dedication of her employees. She described her staff as young people who really care about the business, and who strive to establish a welcoming place where people can congregate and know each other by name.
According to DeVoss, word of mouth has been a major driver in attracting new customers. She’s also incorporated such marketing strategies as postal mailings, social media, Yelp and Google advertisements. Bread subscriptions are still available, with pick-up locations at Cove and Cafe St Jorge. Being visible in the community is a key promotional plan, including attending events such as Taste of Potrero.
“Running a successful bakery in San Francisco takes a lot of dedication. A lot of purveyors and tradesmen come in and give ideas about how to run a profitable business, but what works for me is that I’m not just fueled by making a profit. I don’t inflate prices. I’ve been able to keep prices reasonable while not cutting corners on quality. I have been able to do well financially with this method because customers trust me. People really appreciate quality at a reasonable price,” said DeVoss.
Customers can expect to spend between $2 and $5 for whole loaves, such as the Sweet Batard, and $5 to $8.75 for sandwiches, soups and salads. The current special is Avocado Toast, for $4.