Famous for their delicious pastries and hot chocolate creations with homemade marshmallows, City Bakery has officially closed its doors for good.
After spending 30 years in the same location by Union Square, City Bakery has now joined the slew of treasured establishments around NYC that have been forced to close. The news comes only a few months after their sister bakery Birdbath closed in various locations—including their iconic SoHo shop—and only a week after they announced the shop would possibly close. In the original statement it was explained that City Bakery may have to close due to financial troubles but, as with prior closing news, Baker and Founder of City Bakery, Maury Rubin, took to Instagram a few days ago to share the heartbreaking news with New Yorkers.
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Time has come to post this news, though the community has already done so, which feels exactly right. This is not what we wanted. Not what we expected. It’s where a bad path has led. The city dies a death with us. A loss in so many layers. The faces and voices in front of our empty storefront the last two days already make that clear. So much to say, though for the moment, just two things: first: thank you all for the outpouring of affection and support. Every word read, every idea registered [including the bank robbery, and the brilliance of the bake sale!]. It’s a powerful communal message. Second: we will return. We will absolutely, positively return. Not as City Bakery – the use of our good name has been lost in this saga – but the spirit, the creative, the pleasure, the surprise, the hands and heart that built City Bakery will be back. Please watch this space. Meantime, if you’re a retailer with an interest in our products, or have interest in being involved with our reset, please DM and email firstname.lastname@example.org. #freshstart
The longer statement that was made last week (and can also be read in its entirety below) went into further detail about the reasons behind closing, and the community has been in a state of sadness since.
The letter released last week to City Bakery’s NYC family reads:
“Time has come to share a painful truth: City Bakery is about to go through major changes.
There’s a long version and a short version. Suffice to say for now: we won’t be staying in our current location. We may move. We may cater only. We may wholesale only. We may transform and partner with another food company in the city. There is also a strong possibility we will close entirely, and soon.
I know people who have been into the bakery recently will be shocked. At the moment, we are busy, busy like we’ve been since our early days. Union Square has filled in with a zillion food options, and still we are busy. We’re busy at breakfast, and lines at lunch. Tables are filled with friends catching up, writers writing, job interviews, pitch meetings, first dates, moms with strollers and tourists – lots of tourists – getting their first taste of City Bakery Hot Chocolate or a Pretzel Croissant.
The food business is not what it seems, just ask anyone on the inside with enough experience to know. Standing in the center of City Bakery at lunchtime, watching New Yorkers and the fabulous energy of the room, it’s hard to imagine anything other than great riches. The greater truth is that City Bakery, an established NYC food destination, is still a small company and has never been far enough away from being vulnerable.
Years ago we began a second bakery concept, Birdbath Green Bakery. A little sister to City Bakery. Birdbath was embraced and grew from Tribeca to Soho to the UWS, but then we had some misses, and the cost was high. We unwound Birdbath to focus on City Bakery. We’ve sought new partners and financial support that hasn’t been found. We’ve believed our profitable track record, range of new opportunities and value in the community would be part of a solution. Not so…
There has been an exhaustive search for a fix for more than a year. We have too much debt, debt which is like quicksand. Incredibly, no matter that we are a two-generation NY favorite, normal debt relief from a normal bank has not been an option. People believe rent is the ultimate NY retail killer, but worth saying that if a normal bank loan had been available to City Bakery a few years ago, we would not be anywhere near the danger we’re in today.
We’ve been here since the start of Union Square’s revival. We pioneered good food on 17th Street in 1990, then a block of discount perfume stores, a hardware store and check cashing. We were proud backdoor neighbors to Union Square Cafe on 16th, already the standard bearer for making Union Square a destination for great food. Greenmarket was just a dozen farmers. Lower Fifth Avenue storefronts were half empty. The offices above were mostly architects and photographers and artist studios. It was nascent, but already a wonderful place.
We’ve been baking and making hot chocolate and Mac & Cheese in this neighborhood ever since. We’re on our fourth lease. We’re a few weeks shy of turning 29. We’re nowhere close to being ready to pack it in, given our love of this work. We’re hoping for an ending that keeps City Bakery being City Bakery for many more years.
What is lost if City Bakery disappears?
I happen to believe that New York City and the world need places like City Bakery right now more than ever, but that’s just one view. The real answer is in the hearts and minds of the tens of thousands of people who consider City Bakery extended family. We are intertwined with so many lives. The measure of a moment like this resides within all of those people, the people we feel bound to. Heartbreak. Pure and simple. #citybakerynyc”
featured image source: Instagram / @mangia.nyc
Also published on Medium.