The City Bakery, one of New York’s most iconic pastry shops and cafes, is likely leaving its Union Square location where it’s been for nearly 30 years — and may shut down forever.
Chef and CEO Maury Rubin’s bakery, known for its hot chocolate and pretzel croissants, announced in two long Instagram posts this week that the company is struggling. Though the original location at 3 West 18th Street is just as busy as ever, it has “never been far enough away from being vulnerable,” the post says.
“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,” the post says. “There is also a strong possibility we will close entirely, and soon.”
Eater has reached out to City Bakery for more information.
The bakery opened in 1990, long before the restaurant boom in Union Square, and it has since become a destination and neighborhood stand-by for chocolate chip cookies, hot chocolate with in-house marshmallows, pretzel croissants, and other baked goods and cafe fare. It expanded with locations in Japan and with a sister brand called Birdbath Neighborhood Green Bakery, which had locations in Tribeca, Soho, and the UWS.
But most of the Birdbath bakeries have closed, and according to City Bakery’s post, the company has had trouble finding new financial support and partners since then. It’s a “heartbreak,” the post says.
“We have too much debt, debt which is like quicksand,” the post says. “Incredibly, no matter that we are a two-generation NY favorite, normal debt relief from a normal bank has not been an option.”
Sounds like they’re not ready to shut down yet, though it’s not said what the solution will be. Fans are already freaking out about a potential closure. “I will rob a fucking bank for you,” one comment says. “This is more than just about good hot chocolate and food,” another one says. “You guys are a treasure that needs to be saved.”
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PART ONE [1/2] 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 ...
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[2/2] .... 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