It all started with John Henry Glaser. He opened Glaser’s Bake Shop in 1902 after moving to Yorkville from Germany, back when New York still had its Germantown. Over the past 116 years, Glaser’s has gone from a humble bread-making operation into a beloved neighborhood institution.
Nothing is forever, and it breaks our heart that Glaser’s will close on July 1.
Herb Glaser and his brother John are the third-generation in their family to run Glaser’s Bake Shop after taking over from their father in the early-1990s. The Glaser brothers grew up above the bakery, where Herb continues to live today. They were raised on the sweet smells wafting through the building, and the community in the bakery below. “The shop made this area feel like a small town,” Herb says. “Everyone knew everyone.”
Not an ordinary bakery
If you peek through the curtained windows, Glaser’s looks like any run-of-the-mill bakery that’s been around for a long time. But after opening the doors, you know it’s anything but. Smell and sight compete for your attention. The subtle, nutty aroma of freshly baked cookies and cakes and bread travels from your nose straight into your belly. At first, you’ll feel soft and warm. Then, you’ll feel like putty.
“People fall in love when they see Glaser’s. Most customers are regulars”
At the same time, your eyes will take in the glass display. Black and white cookies and apple strudel and brownies and cupcakes and linzer tarts and cakes with mounds of swirly chocolate-vanilla whipped cream like they’re frozen in time. Then there’s the dark-wood cabinetry, tin ceiling, and tiled floor with ‘John Glaser’ spelled out for all to see, dating back to 1918. The smiling women behind the counter will happily serve you, but the line won’t be getting any shorter. When someone leaves with a bag of goodies, another person takes his place.
The baking area lies beyond the sales counters and displays, and there’s plenty to see – a high pile of 50-pound bags of baking flour, a large work-table, pots, an industrial-sized sink. Big utensils. Small utensils. Sharp utensils. Dull utensils. And ovens. Lots of ovens.
And then there’s Herb Glaser working. He’s a blur of white moving in the midst of this organized clutter. White hair, white cap, white shirt, white apron, white pants. He leans over the table, eyes screwed-up in focus, his shirt wrinkled from working all day. His taut arms in short sleeves as he cuts fresh sheets of brownies into neat squares.
A spot for regulars
Herb’s grandfather made a decision in 1902 that showed how astute he was: he bought the building that houses Glaser’s. To Herb, this is what’s made it possible for to look back on 116 years of success. “The only reason we’re still here is because we own the building,” he says. But that’s not the whole story. The shop’s homey air draws you in. As he puts it, “People fall in love when they see Glaser’s. Most customers are regulars.”
The same can be said for its employees. Joanne Hooper, who works the front counter, has been working at Glaser’s for 27 years. She’s been a customer for even longer. When Hooper turned two-years old, her family celebrated her birthday with a Glaser’s cake. It was her first of many.
She’s stayed at Glaser’s Bake Shop this long because of the neighborhood and the people. Serving generations of East siders is among the many perks of the job. “I’ve waited on little ones who now bring in their little ones,” Hooper says.
Most of Glaser’s patrons go for the black and white cookies and the brownies. Joanne Hooper also likes the brownies, and really anything with whipped cream. Herb Glaser? His first pick is his brownie. If he’s not in the mood for that he reaches for the closest butter pecan cookie.
Glaser’s Bake Shop is still located in its original location, at 1670 1st Avenue on 87th Street. Go before it closes on July 1.