Saffron Bakery Café
Downtown. 333 East Bay St. 722-5588
Black and white checkered tiles line the floor. A group of gothic teenagers walk in and take their usual seat next to a table of distinguished elderly women. The strong aroma of fresh-baked bread fills the air in such a way that you immediately have to grab your growling stomach.
The cashier cheerfully beams from behind her cash register.
Clean booths dot the spacious bakery. Ali Rahnamoon, one of the bakery’s owners, sits quietly at a booth, punching numbers into his calculator, but occasionally looking up at customers as they pass by. He flashes an appreciative smile as they order their meals without even glancing at their menus.
“We respect our customers. We love them,” Ali says with a grin.
Ali Rahnamoon and Shahram Hehapour, Ali’s business partner and lifelong friend, established the Saffron Bread Company in 1987. After a short stint at a university in Boston, Ali and Shahram decided to move to the south to open a bakery.
“We went to a restaurant in Columbia to find a location [for our restaurant]. A guy that was sitting at the table next to us said, ‘Have you tried Charleston?’ So we came to Charleston,” Ali says.
What started as a small bakery on Market Street has expanded to two very successful locations, in downtown Charleston on East Bay Street and in N. Charleston. The central location on East Bay Street is the bakery, while its N. Charleston location functions primarily as its central kitchen.
The bakery has had a wide variety of customers, ranging from local Charlestonians, to Gian Carlo Menotti, the founder of the Spoleto Festival, to Liz Taylor, and to various local and national political figures.
“People love the quality of our food. Our bakery is just different from what most people are used to,” Ali says.
This couldn’t be truer. With a grocery store that sells a mixture of groceries from America and overseas located inside the bakery, you are practically guaranteed to find anything that you desire, and in most cases, things you didn’t even know you desired.
But what really attracts Saffron fans from all over the nation are the assortments of unique breads, cakes, homemade cookies, bagels, Danishes, and any sort of little confections that you can think of.
The quality and attention that the chefs pay to their entrees are impeccable. Whether you’re buying one of their popular wedding cakes, or a slice of cheesecake, you are practically guaranteed to be pleased with its price, taste, and decoration.
“We have a really good crowd here … the customers are very loyal. We’re always honest to everyone because we want everyone to be happy,” Ali says as he waves good-bye to the obviously satisfied customers. “And in the end, that’s all that really matters.”