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When You're Truly in Dire Knead, Line Up at the Cheese Board with Berkeley's Well-Bread Upper Crust

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Breadlines are a fact of life these days in Berkeley, Calif. But don’t waste your sympathy. These folk are just yuppies lining up for the 10 a.m. Saturday opening of the Cheese Board, a small bakery and cheese shop in Berkeley. The shop offers a variety of goods—about 6,000 loaves are sold weekly—including still-warm sourdough baguettes, loaves of cheese-onion-curry and corn-oat-molasses bread. But these attorneys, technical writers and therapists are not simply buying bread; they’re also networking. “I meet new people in line,” says Ron Lai, 48, an insurance broker. “This is part of my weekly life cycle.”

Although many of the regulars represent the nouvelle materialism, the owners hark back to the university town’s radical days. The 20-year-old Cheese Board is owned and operated by a collective of 23 people, among them an opera singer, a carpenter, a former cab driver and one professional baker. All earn $12 an hour and meet monthly to discuss the business. The store grossed $1 million in real dough last year and donated much of the profit to grass-roots organizations.

Indeed Berkeley’s counterculture sensitivities live on. Steve Sullivan, owner of the competing Acme Bread Company, finds a yuppie breadline at his door an embarrassment. Refusing to be photographed in his shop, he declared he would rather be serving the masses.