Glaser’s Bake Shop is a special place – ask anyone passing by on 1st Avenue these last frenetic few days. But on Sunday, after more than a century in business, Glaser’s is finally shutting its doors to a neighborhood and city not quite ready to mourn the loss.
Glaser’s last day in business is on Sunday July 1st, with a typical early afternoon closing. But the lines have been curling down the block all week; you can see it as soon as you round the corner. Eventually, you make out the people waiting, some over an hour, to get in. An older man with a cane nestled comfortably on his arm, a commuter fresh off the Q, a woman who sauntered over during her evening walk.
“Glaser’s is a neighborhood gem and the people inside are neighborhood gems”
These crowds have been a new normal in the last week at Glaser’s, as if a decade’s worth of patrons now have the same routine to pick up meringues and butter cookies.
The most determined begin lining up in the morning right before opening. “It gets longer every time you try to go in,” said Ellie Cosmin.
Past and present
Meghan Hales, another neighborhood regular, is partial to Glaser’s donuts and paid a visit earlier in the week, bringing along a friend all the way from Inwood. “Glaser’s is a neighborhood gem and the people inside are neighborhood gems”, Hale said.
For many in Yorkville, memories of Glaser’s span generations. Ellie Cosmin, in a rose cardigan and spectacles, was walking her dog and weaving through the line. Cosmin has been coming to Glaser’s for 40 years. She lives down the block now, and still remembers the bakery as a childhood stop after days spent at Carl Schurz Park. Her daughters and granddaughters always got their birthday cakes from here, and this day, she got brownies and immediately froze them. “My granddaughter sobbed when she heard the bakery was closing,” Cosmin said.
St. Joseph’s Church on 87th even organized an interfaith service to honor the bakery, and the Glaser family attended. So did many of their patrons; Cosmin made sure she attended. “I was there to honor them,” she said.
The best black and whites
“Herbie has been working late into the night this week,” said Peter Corrigan, his black shirt pocked with flour and one thumb tucked into the belt of his apron. He peered in at Herb Glaser lifting trays in and out of the racks and ovens.
Corrigan has worked at Glaser’s Bake Shop for nearly a decade. In the last hour before closing, he would be stationed outside the bakery managing the line like a bouncer.
“They really do have the best black and whites” Cosmin said. And it’s easy to see why. The black and white at Glaser’s is finessed in the way every great hand-made thing is. The ganache peaks where the ribbon of chocolate dripped from above, and it is anything but sleek. The cookie is topped with the kind of chocolate that frosted birthday cakes in home-videos, leaving imprints in its white pastry bag like melting fudge. That’s just one of many things that has people lined up like disciples in a ministry at 6:45 in the morning. Eventually, Corrigan would announce to the remaining folks lined up that the bakery was closed, and that they should try again tomorrow.
A second home
Chromatic blue-green tile frames the Glaser’s facade, and when you let the visage linger just a second longer you realize you never really see that blue anymore. It harkens back to an era of classic cars and soda -fountains. Inside, Glaser’s is sepia-toned; from the tin ceiling, spools of baker’s thread hang just above the countertop. There was only a handful of people left in the bakery picking from a near-empty display case at closing, a scene that will certainly repeat itself today and tomorrow.
We are losing not just the delicious pastries, but a place that could afford to deal in moments of messiness and banter
The bakery was preternaturally quiet when the last patron left. After picking up his eclairs, he walked out and waved and attempted to help bring down the metal store-front barrier outside. Like many of Glaser’s regulars, he embraced the bakery like a second home and left it ready to lock the door.
You’ll be missed
Herb Glaser was meditative at the end of the day. He had easily been on his feet for a solid twelve hours, and that’s not including nights spent baking for the last week in business. But even after all of that, Glaser was carefully arranging butter cookies for the next day and remembering cherished times.
“I think I’ll miss the kids the most,” Glaser said, thinking of the afternoon rush to the bakery when school let out around the corner.
Maybe that’s why it feels like such a loss. Glaser’s doesn’t have to go away. And for once, the loss is not about predatory development and soaring rents, but just changing ambitions in the younger generations of a New York family.
Glaser’s Bake Shop served and welcomed everyone, and the community it built kept coming for generations. We are losing not just the delicious pastries, but a place that could afford to deal in moments of messiness and banter – a shop that wouldn’t bat an eyelash at a patron helping to close up.
In the memorial service for Glaser’s Bake Shop at St. Joseph’s Church, it came down to honoring a family who served their community. As one speaker marveled about the Glasers -“What an honor it is to feed people.”
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