No two days in the life of a small business owner are alike. For Zak Stern, owner of Zak the Baker, a retail kosher deli and wholesale baked goods distributor in Miami’s Wynwood Arts District, it’s a good thing that July 6 will never be repeated.
Stern took a call that day from one of his delivery drivers, who told him he had walked out of one of his regular stops to find that his van was stolen. A few hours later, media agencies were calling Stern to ask him about one of his bakery vans that may have been used in an armed bank heist.
“We didn’t really know what was going on,” Stern said. “It went from ‘Our truck was stolen’ to ‘I think our truck was in a bank robbery’ to ‘Where are our drivers?’ pretty quickly.”
When the media agencies called, news helicopters were hovering over one of his vans, which had been surrounded by FBI agents. Stern surmised correctly that the van was stolen opportunistically to be used as a getaway vehicle for the heist — but he wasn’t so sure that they caught the right guy. Stern, who tried unsuccessfully to reach his drivers, was correct.
“It was one of our guys, because he called us afterward saying he was in handcuffs,” said Stern, noting that the driver was subsequently identified and released. “They were pulling over our other drivers, too, which was very scary for them. Our drivers had no clue what was going on.”
On the face of it, using a getaway vehicle with a company logo and “bakery” written in bold, black lettering would get you into the “stupid criminal” hall of fame before facilitating your escape. But this case was different.
Stern runs six identical vans — white Nissan NV 2500 models — with duplicate branding. The bakery serves restaurants and grocery stores from South Miami up to Palm Beach Gardens — a lot of ground to cover for a business or authorities chasing a criminal. While the FBI was stopping the other bakery vans, the criminal abandoned his van and is believed to still be at large, according to news reports.
Aside from his drivers’ safety, Stern’s next order of business that day was to call his clients, including two Whole Foods Markets and a few restaurants, to let them know their bread would be late. “It’s a big problem that our truck was stolen, but a chef still needs his bread,” he said.
When Stern gets his van back, which should be in the next day or two, it’ll be business as usual, or as usual as a small business owner can expect.