As Lisa Macalaster, the founder of the Beacon Hill Women’s Forum (BHWF) seven years ago, said at the start of the evening, it was a perfect storm….the weather was decidedly cold outside, there were more attendees than ever before, it was standing room only, and in our midst was our favorite neighborhood baker: Tzurit Or. Or, who started Tatte with the first store in Brookline in 2008, has been on quite a journey since coming to the states with her then husband before that. Born in Israel, she was a film producer working on yogurt and airlines commercials. But Or always loved baking, even when she was younger.
Her first three years in the states were tough, and she relied on Google to find out everything she needed to know about selling her wares at local farmers’ markets. Or had to apply to the Massachusetts Federation of Farmers’ Markets, and they were “blown away” by her product samples, assigning her a plume corner spot near the Public Library. Or baked and worked constantly, her biscotti and brownies were in huge demand. But her customers wanted more from her.
Or says that Tatte was born out of a desperate need to create a life for herself and her young daughter; she couldn’t go back to Israel, and she needed to “save herself”. Using only her credit cards (18), tracked on an Excel spreadsheet, she financed her first store in Brookline. It opened in 2008, and although Or has never looked back, it hasn’t also been easy. The second store, Kendall Square, opened in 2012, and with a line out the door that day, Or ran out of food. Along the way, Or has had business partnerships with Williams Sonoma catalogs, the founder of Panera Bread (which continues today), and made the list of Oprah’s favorite things.
But Or admits, it has been very lonely, and at times, she has not enjoyed what she has been doing. Realizing that Tatte may not be big enough to attract investors, she knew she had to find a partner. And so she did….in Ron Shaich of Panera fame. They bonded on a bench…over shared values…and he has helped her with some of the back office support which has enabled Tatte to continue its growth, soon to be 15 bakeries in January with more to come in 2020 in Boston and D.C.
Or, who recently hired a new president, oversees ~1,000 employees, who she treats like family. Her new Team has allowed her to breathe, protect her soul, and take a salary for the first time in six years. She says it’s been a very hard journey to take the business to the next level, but she believes in Tatte today “for my people, for their future.” “I want a life here…and now I must take care of my personal life,” Or says. Where does the name Tatte come from, you may ask? When her daughter was younger, she would point to a picture of Or’s grandmother and say ‘Tatte’, which means ‘Grandma’ in Hebrew for children for younger children. And so, a successful business with a special name was born.