Self-taught pastry chef Tzurit Or is expanding her bakery empire across the East Coast.
The first time I walked into Tatte Bakery’s Harvard Square location, I’m pretty sure I gasped. The space was striking: stark black chalkboards adorning white-tiled walls, shelves stacked high with packs of candied nuts, pastries as pretty as the custom mosaic floor. Every aspect of the place felt deeply curated, homey, and warm. Stylized just enough to be beautiful but not intimidating, the bakery was unlike any I'd ever experienced.
Each Tatte—from the original in Brookline to the twelfth (and newest) location in downtown Boston—feels like its own distinct space. Founder Tzurit Or has been able to cultivate a kind of magic within her brick-and-mortars to the point where Tatte doesn’t ever feel like a replicable chain. And yet, replicating Tatte is exactly what Or is doing. She grew the company from one to a dozen bakeries in Massachusetts, with three more in the works, and has plans to expand across the East Coast. The first Tatte in Washington, D.C. will open in late fall 2019, with New York City to follow.
Throughout all of this growth, Or has created a brand-wide aesthetic built upon the idea that each individual outpost is one-of-a-kind.
“Each store is different, but you always feel that you’re at Tatte,” Or said. She attributes this characteristic to what she calls the brand’s “clear language of design”—a construction that draws from Europe’s old-style neighborhood pharmacies, where everything is white and the medicines are on full display.
“The analogy between bakery and pharmacy might sound odd, but that’s how I carry Tatte," she said. "This is a neighborhood place. It’s a place you trust. You feel like someone will take care of you there.”
Or was eager to find that exact kind of welcoming environment when she moved to Boston in 2006, having emigrated to the United States three years before from Tel Aviv. After one summer selling pastries at local farmers' markets, Or opened the first Tatte. It was a space intended to provide her and her daughter, who was three at the time, with a sense of home. When she opens Tatte D.C., Or plans to carry over that same familiar feeling. “That’s our magic,” she said.
While a different kind of entrepreneur might streamline tiles and tables to make the expansion process more efficient, Or refuses to minimize her vision, which is why she’s been able to preserve the Tatte aesthetic. The heart of this place exists within light fixtures carried over from Israel in Or’s suitcase, from tchotchkes she sources while traveling in Paris. Or views each new Tatte as a giant puzzle. She designs her spaces piece by antique piece.
Once, when Or was designing three new locations at once, she delayed an opening just to make sure the space was exactly how she wanted it. “That’s my trade off,” Or said, “Yes, we could make money in three weeks, but it’s more important to get it right.”
Or’s devotion to the design of her spaces comes from a place of wanting to feel good while at Tatte. Wanting to stay for a while. She said, “I need to fall in love with it."
That’s exactly what made me gasp the first time I experienced Tatte. I could feel Or’s love. The charm of it all made me fall in love with Tatte myself. And with every visit—each bite of a chocolate rose or halva bomb or poached pear tart—I fall a little harder.