Chauncey Bailey Project

AIDS nonprofit aims to buy Oakland bakery building

Your Black Muslim Bakery
Your Black Muslim Bakery

Your Black Muslim Bakery

By Josh Richman, Chauncey Bailey Project

OAKLAND – The high bidder for a North Oakland property that used to be Your Black Muslim Bakery’s headquarters hopes to buy it for a longtime Oakland nonprofit serving people with HIV/AIDS and other critical illnesses.

The deal requires a green light today from U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Edward Jellen of Oakland, who’s overseeing the liquidation of the bakery – an institution for which decades of community involvement have ended in bankruptcy and violence.

Kurt Zimmerman, representing high bidder NCK LLC, emerged Wednesday afternoon from the office of Eric Nyberg, attorney for bankruptcy trustee Tevis Thompson, saying he had outbid the only other party interested in the property at 5832 San Pablo Ave. Nyberg later Wednesday said NCK had agreed to pay $1,052,000.

Nyberg said he’s satisfied the auction got the best possible price for the building, which had been marketed in September with an $899,000 asking price. “We wouldn’t present it if we didn’t think it was a good deal. We’re letting the market speak.”

Zimmerman said, “To me it’s not about dollars and cents, it’s about what we’re doing with the building.”

If the sale goes through, the building will become the new home of Vital Life Services, formerly known as the Center for AIDS Services, now located in rented space at 5720 Shattuck Ave. in Oakland.

Founded in 1987 as a Catholic agency providing pastoral care, meals and massages to HIV/AIDS patients, it’s now a nondenominational organization providing a wide range of services from food to counseling to acupuncture to those living with HIV/AIDS and other maladies.

Zimmerman declined to name NCK’s partners, saying they’d formed the limited liability corporation in part to protect their anonymity.

The only other bidder present at Wednesday’s auction was Paulette Arbuckle, a longtime bakery neighborhood resident who has refused to discuss the matter with reporters.

She had offered $899,000 just four days after the building went on the market. Nyberg said Wednesday that Arbuckle’s final bid of $1,051,000 will be presented today <cm-thurs> for Jellen’s approval as well, as a backup should the sale to NCK fall through.

Arbuckle’s real-estate broker was Esperanza Johnson, formerly known as Noor Jehan Bey, mother to four children by the bakery’s late founder Yusuf Ali Bey. Johnson and her current husband, Antron Thurman, have racked up a series of questionable real-estate deals in Alameda and Contra Costa counties in which people have claimed the couple defrauded them; Johnson and Thurman have refused to comment on these other deals, and Johnson has refused to comment on her possible role in the bakery’s sale.

But although Arbuckle’s was the first offer, it was subject to overbids by other interested buyers; such bids, starting at a minimum of $904,000, were due by Nov. 16.

Won Chul Lee, 62, an East Oakland deli proprietor and property owner, acknowledged Tuesday <cm-cq> that he had bid on the bakery headquarters, but had withdrawn that bid by this week. Another bidder, a man from Palo Alto, was expected at Wednesday’s auction but didn’t show up, Zimmerman said.

Michael Harrison, founder and president of Emeryville-based Equistone Partners, said he’d helped Zimmerman review dozens of possible sites for Vital Life Center before settling on the defunct bakery as the perfect option.

Harrison and Zimmerman said Wednesday’s auction lasted more than 75 minutes, with Arbuckle, Johnson and their attorney leaving the room several times to talk amongst themselves and then returning to continue the bidding.

Zimmerman said R.N. Field Construction of San Francisco, where he works, will extensively renovate the San Pablo Avenue building according to plans being drawn up by Oakland-based Hibser Yamauchi Architects Inc. He said he hopes city officials will issue permits without undue delay so the work can proceed as soon as possible after the sale closes, as the nonprofit hopes to open its new doors April 30, 2008.

“This is a better location than where it is now,” Zimmerman said, noting its easy access via public transportation. “It’s a great building, it’s a good investment as well, but it’ll ensure the longevity of the center for many years to come.”

He praised Vital Life Services’ frugality, claiming the agency spends about 94 cents of every dollar it receives on services for its clients by maintaining low overhead and a small army of volunteer workers. The agency’s latest publicly available tax return shows it had a $67,000 operating deficit for fiscal 2005, leaving about $263,000 in its coffers as of June 30, 2006.

Zimmerman noted Your Black Muslim Bakery’s original mission was to serve the neighborhood, and he hopes having Vital Life Services occupy that edifice will “help to resurrect that, to heal that local community.”

The property, an L-shaped lot of about 14,000 square feet, on which the bakery building stands at 5832-5838 San Pablo Ave. and a residential duplex stands at 1083 59th St., was placed in trustee Thompson’s hands in August after Jellen moved Your Black Muslim Bakery from voluntary Chapter 11 reorganization into Chapter 7 liquidation.

Zimmerman said no decision has been made on what to do with the duplex.

More than 200 police officers swarmed those and other properties Aug. 3. Four people were arrested including Devaughndre Broussard, a bakery handyman who has been charged with the Aug. 2 homicide of Oakland Post editor Chauncey Bailey. Police said Broussard confessed to the crime after the murder weapon was found in his closet; he and his lawyer since have said the confession was coerced and bogus.

Also arrested was current Your Black Muslim Bakery CEO Yusuf Bey IV, first on a warrant connected to an assault case in San Francisco and later on charges in a May kidnapping/assault incident in Oakland.

Your Black Muslim Bakery was founded by Yusuf Bey, who for many years was highly regarded in Oakland as a formidable businessman trying to better the lives of young African-American men. His business ventures over time also included a security company, dry-cleaning stores and other entities.

But stories of violence have dogged his family for years, and a 21-year-old son was gunned down in 1994, the same year that two relatives were charged with torturing a man. Bey died in 2003 while charged with 27 counts in the alleged rapes of four girls under age 14; his successor, Waajid Aljawaad Bey, was found in a shallow grave in the Oakland Hills in 2004.

Then the next CEO, Antar Bey, was gunned down in a 2005 carjacking attempt, and Yusuf Bey IV assumed the business’ helm just before being arrested for vandalizing two West Oakland liquor stores, part of a two-year string of arrests.

Bankruptcy court documents say the business spun out of control during this family turmoil, leading Yusuf Bey IV to file for Chapter 11 protection late last year. But he failed to file reports and pay fees, and Jellen in August ordered the business liquidated to satisfy its creditors.

Contact Oakland Tribune staff writer Josh Richman at jrichman@bayareanewsgroup.com or 510-208-6428.

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