Food World Mourns the Loss of NYC Institution City Bakery
The landmark bakery closed after almost 30 years in business.
New York City already feels a bit different. On Monday, the Union Square institution City Bakery announced on Instagram that it would be closing after almost 30 years in business, serving hot chocolate, cookies, mac and cheese, and pretzel croissants treasured by a rare alliance of both tourists and locals.
"It's true," read an Instagram photo posted to the bakery's account. "City Bakery has closed. What a time. What a world this was. What a loss. A loss for all of us. We'll miss this forever. Thank you New York."
The photo was followed by a long caption written by City Bakery's founder, Maury Rubin, who thanked the community for "the outpouring of affection and support." Rubin also suggested that the bakery would return in some way or another, though that it would no longer be able to use its name.
"We will absolutely, positively return," the caption read. "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."
While the reason for the closure is not yet clear (we've reached out to Rubin for comment), the bakery had been public about its recent financial troubles.
An Instagram post from earlier this October referred to "debt which is like quicksand," worrying many of its loyal fans. "People believe rent is the ultimate NY retail killer," the post continued, "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."
The restaurant has been a vital part of New York City's dining ecosystem for decades, helping make Union Square the hub that it is today. As one of its heartbreaking recent Instagram post points out, City Bakery was "proud backdoor neighbors" to the legendary Union Square Café. Indeed, 2019 has been an uneasy year for New York City restaurants, with the loss of Jonathan Waxman's 15-year-old Barbuto rattling the industry and raising questions over whether it's still teneble to operate restaurants in the city, considering cripplingly high rents and the "mall-ification of restaurant culture," as F&W editor-in-chief Hunter Lewis puts it.
Non-New Yorkers may know City Bakery from its cameo on the fifth season of Sex and the City, when Carrie takes Samantha out for brownies. Lifetime New Yorkers know City Bakery from the joyful, unmistakable mark it left on a city that has undergone countless transformations, many of them upsetting.
"Starbucks will always survive without your $5 but I do not want to live in a New York City where city bakery doesn’t exist," wrote writer Caroline Moss on Twitter. Rubin's niece, Mallory, tweeted, "My uncle's pretzel croissants and marshmallows and cookies brought so much joy to so many. I always admired his passion not only for food, but for building a community around what he loved. Raise a mug of hot chocolate in remembrance."
In the meantime, all New Yorkers can do is hope that City Bakery lives on in some capacity. On Instagram, Rubin left things on a somewhat optimistic note, suggesting that "if you're a retailer with an interest in our products, or have interest being involved with our reset," to get in touch.
He signed off with the hashtag "#freshstart," and we're certainly crossing our fingers for one.