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‘We’re Flatlined’: Sullivan Street Bakery Shuts Down Bread Baking After Flood

A water main break halts bakery production and delays the opening of owner Jim Lahey’s new pizzeria

Overproofed, wet dough on proofers.
A flood caused by a water main break engulfed the main production facility of Sullivan Street Bakery in Hell’s Kitchen.
Sullivan Street Bakery

Manhattan’s acclaimed Sullivan Street Bakery has suspended baking operations after a water main break flooded the main production facility in Hell’s Kitchen with eight feet of water last week. Owner Jim Lahey has been keeping fans updated in a play-by-play over Instagram.

Since then, fellow bakers from Balthazar, Bread Alone, Granddaisy, and Il Forno, many of whom he’s worked with at one time or another, have been keeping his businesses stocked with bread products in this lead-up to the busiest time of the year for a bakery.

“In my 28 years, I’ve never not had an oven working,” Lahey told Eater. “We’re flatlined.” Sullivan Street Bakery first opened in 1994.

While Lahey runs multiple NYC locations of the bakery, including one in Soho, and Sullivan Street Bakery and Pizza in Chelsea, the flood ruined among other things a gas line booster in Hell’s Kitchen that’s necessary for the volume of his production.

Lahey says he has “no idea” when he’ll be back up and running. The flood has also delayed a new pizzeria he was on track to open in early 2023.

In the week since the flood, the bakery has gotten a new water pipe, restored power, and a new sidewalk, but it remains closed; he says the entire gas line valve system needs to be rebuilt.

Lahey lives above the flooded bakery with his family; they currently don’t have gas in their home, either.

“I’ve had many emotional moments,” he says. The effect the flood has had on his business is greater than the hit from the pandemic; it affects the livelihood of around 90 people who work at the bakery. He says he has more employees now than he did pre-Covid.

A flooded bakery with standing water.
The Hell’s Kitchen production bakery of Sullivan Street Bakery after a water main break flooded the basement.
Sullivan Street Bakery

Until Sullivan Street is at full capacity, he notes he’s becoming a temporary distributor as opposed to an artisan baker that’s spending over $10,000 a day buying bread — but he still needs to pay his employees: His payroll is around $65,000 a week, he says, and he intends to pay employees even though the bakery is closed. He does not know when insurance would kick in to offset the costs of the rebuild and weekly payroll.

Of bakers who have helped him out, he is “astounded” by Paula Oland from Balthazar Bakery (based in Englewood, New Jersey). And he notes that Union Square Greenmarket favorite Bread Alone, which recently opened a carbon-neutral bakery upstate, has stepped in to help supply NYC Sweetgreens with bread, which accounts for 30 percent of Sullivan Street’s business, he says.

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