Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Lafayette French Pastry


Reader Kevin Dougherty writes in with the news that, after over 30 years in business, the Lafayette Bakery on Greenwich Avenue has closed. "Sadly, it does not come as a surprise to me. I do not think he was doing that well in the business. The store is totally empty. Not a thing appears to be left. Sad."

He shares this photo of the empty shop window:

photo: Kevin Dougherty

In June, the owner of the bakery wrote on Lafayette's Facebook page: "we must leave this location due to a letter of eviction. donations are being accepted. i need 40000!" A week later, he said, "good news- got an order to show cause extending our life til july 9, 2012."

And that was all he wrote.

In July, Robert Sietsema reported that the marshals had seized the place. As to history, he wrote, "Lafayette had been at this Greenwich Avenue location for at least 15 years, and had previously existed for at least 15 years near the corner of Bleecker and Seventh Avenue South. Though it had pretenses of being a French bakery, the owners were Greek."

Maybe business started going downhill in 2009 when the baker made the ugly mistake of making and marketing "Drunken Negro Cookies" in response to Obama's election. The Black Panthers protested, chanting, "Ray-cist Lah-fay-ette! Brick by brick, wall by wall--we’ll stay out here and make you fall!"

Lafayette didn't fall then, but a flood of bad reviews on Yelp didn't help. And the closure of St. Vincent's put a lot of locals out of business along this stretch of Greenwich.

I last went into the bakery in May. I bought some lace cookies and talked to the baker about all his neighbors who'd been put out of business due to rising rents and the loss of the hospital. He told me he was doing okay.

The cookies weren't great and I didn't eat them, but I always liked walking by that bakery. It looked like it had been there forever. And you don't often see the word LOGS spelled out in neon.

As Sietsema put it, "as a vestige of the old West Village with all its French and beatnik pretensions, it will be missed, a place worth looking in the window of from time to time, but almost never entered."


ish said...

I always got confused by their new location but at the original location they had simply the best cream puffs I have ever consumed.

Larry Wirth said...

Seems like he didm;t deserve to stay in business. Poor quality, rude, and racist - how did he last this long?

randall said...

Hmmmm. Not sure if this is worth mourning. Mentioning as an example of poor business choices maybe. Drunken Negro cookies!?!? Really?!?! I'm actually kind of surprised they didn't get a brick or molotov cocktail through the window.

Anonymous said...

While I appreciated the old neon sign and the remains of the old Bleecker St. (?) shop, I found Ted and his mother to be phenomenally unfriendly to the many kids from PS41 who mobbed the place after school. He was pleasant enough and chatty with me, but he really was disagreeable, his stuff not very good, and his stupid Drunken Negro cookies were a nail in the coffin. It's not one of the places near my kids' elementary school for which there's any nostalgia.

I prefer to patronize old and unhip (that's why I read JVNY, of course!) but when the product is not good and the service somewhat miserable, count me out.

Anonymous said...

ahh-haah... NOW it comes together. In an earlier article I lamented the closing of 'Partners & Crime' which is very near this bakery. And so now perhaps there is a push to evict the smaller shops, then the tenants of the "appropriate to scale" buildings above these shops, and voila. Here comes a high-rise. I give it 6 years max before the new structure is in place. And they are going to desecrate the West Village skyline as has been done to my East Village. Building 'up' building up, our city won't stop building up. And how it 'was' is going to vanish. You want history people, you're going to have to hit another city. Ours is loosing it's look and feel to glass and chrome and whatever other durable materials there are. The landscape is going to change indeed. Perhaps not for the 'worse' to newer-New-Yorkers, but to others amungst us, it's not a welcome change or feeling. Architecture leaves an impression and memory, and these changes personally leave me flat. OK, enough sobbing in my soup.

Panic said...

The post is, probably unintentionally, amusing. You can't be sad it's vanished if you didn't patronize it, if no one you know patronized it, if their food was awful. Obviously, no one wants a Starbucks or a cupcake, or cakepop, or whatever frothy Yummy Mummy bullshit is hip these days, but... no one seemed to like or want this place when it was open. O_o

Anonymous said...

Yeah, are we lamenting this business closing? The tendency to over-romanticize the past seems to really ignore the bad aspects of the "good ol' days."

There's a lot of other great, old businesses shuttering lately that we could be lamenting. I'm not saying that we should ignore all of them, because to demonize everything that came before is just as bad, if not worse. I love walking past places like this, and would always prefer to over a Duane Reade or bank or cocktail bar. But I'm not going to let my nostalgia blind to the attitudes of the business owner.

It's just that New York is an amazing multicultural beautiful mess of diversity. I say good riddance to those who don't want to accept that...

Stephanie said...

@ish: I agree that the quality declined greatly after the move from Bleecker. Every time I stopped by after that, I wondered why I'd bothered--the dessert were simply not worth the calories. Just because it's old doesn't mean it deserves to stay if the output is mediocre.

Anonymous said...

And if that's not bad enough he was a rabid republican.

Good riddance.

Brian J. said...

" racist" ?
Oh, stop, Ye-So-Quick-to-Judge-Others!
Lighten up.

If that were done to a white person, you'd be silent.

For instance, how many cards do you see on St. Patrick's Day with drunken, Irish references?
Do you call those racist?
Of course, not.
Have I spelled "hypocrite" correctly?

Guys like you weaken the term for when it is truly needed, and are the kind of people who give liberals a bad name.

I hope you're satisfied. Another legendary Village business gone, sacrificed at the altar of Political Correctness.

Jeremiah Moss said...

Panic says, "You can't be sad it's vanished if you didn't patronize it." do people agree that this is true? we can't feel sadness for places that vanish if we weren't regular customers?

Susan DeMark said...

It's good to document the shop's closing, and I definitely felt this place was a throwback to an earlier time in the Village. But it's telling that many enjoyed walking past the Lafayette French Pastry rather than going inside and buying a pastry. I haven't bought something in this bakery for years. People won't buy baked goods based on memory if the quality doesn't hold up.

Little Earthquake said...

Good or bad, Jeremiah is reporting its vanishing. He was even "fair and balanced" enough (forgive the Fox News term) to discuss its racial faux pas in response to the Obama election. Personally I think a good business stands on its own, and if you're not being respected as a customer, then you've been cheated.

Interesting side note. The Lamentations virus is spreading. An op-ed piece in Sunday's Times complained about the disappearing favelas (impoverished shantytowns) of Rio de Janeiro, based on the fact that they are/were "historical." Well yeah but historical does not always equal worth preserving. My wife (from Rio) laughed at the idea. Among the worst forms of urban blight and some preservationist academics are saddened by "gentrification."

Pat said...

I went in there a few years ago to buy cookies and I mentioned the “drunken Negro cookies” incident I had seen on the news. He started RAVING about how he was going to get his “friends from Staten Island” to go after people in the neighborhood who threatened him. He came across like a thug and a blowhard and I could not wait to get out of there. Then his mother who worked behind the counter short-changed me and when I called her on it he YELLED at her to put her glasses on while she is working, Bye-bye white trash!
And … I am Irish-American, yes we are “fair game” on St. Patty’s Day, and it’s not fair, but don’t you see, he was talking about the President of the United States. Respect is in order.

Marty Wombacher said...

"Drunken Negro Cookies" wasn't the best marketing plan in the world, but I'll miss the neon store front. I used to get Napoleon's in there and they were always good and I was always treated nicely.

Brendan said...

So, Black Panthers: not real New Yorkers?

Laura Goggin Photography said...

Unfortunately, those drunken negro cookies are all I remember about this place. I'm surprised it didn't close at the time as the owner was so unapologetic and surly.

Yes, you can mourn a place you don't patronize, but if the product is bad and no one likes it, then what's to miss?

TyN said...

@ Brian J: Horrible comparison. St. Patrick's Day is an IRISH f*cking holiday and it's celebrated by drinking. Try harder troll.

blue glass said...

they started out on bleecker street just west of 7th avenue.
they had the best cookies, real whipped cream eclairs, and charlotte russe - a piece of cake topped with whipped cream and a cherry held in a thin cardboard cone.
can't get them anymore, anywhere.
you could not smoke in the shop because it soured the cream but you were not told this with an attitude.
they gave out free cookies to children (like me).
lafayette and sutters (also on bleecker street) were the best bakeries ever.

Brian J. said...

Pat @11:30: "We're fair game"
Sez who? You?
When did you receive the privilege of Imprimatur, my friend?

I've heard of self-hating Jews. Now we have self-hating Irish, who demand more respect for a politician than for themselves.

Better reserve your Pub Crawl tickets soon. The liquor industry needs your money.

Anonymous said...

Yeah...no. That's actually the "New" black panther party who were protesting. They're phony and about as authentic as the 'french' pastries peddled by the racist Greek-American that owned this joint.

You know what I don't miss vanishing from the so-called "old new york"? Overt violent ethnocentrism from every other aggrieved ethnic white resident.

The disappearing city you lament so hard here on this blog was in many respects a godawful shithole. I should know- I've lived here my whole life.

Fuck this place.

Pat said...

@Brian J: You misunderstood my words. Yes we are "fair game" TO OTHERS on St. Patty's Day, and it's not fair, because if the same things were said about other groups all hell would break loose. This does not change the fact that a lot of Irish and Irish American social life does revolve around the pub. Some Irish people I know are offended by the T-shirts, cards and jokes about all the drinking, some laugh it off.

Mitch said...

I lived near this place for a number of years. I was offput by the picture of GW Bush he had hanging over his cash register with the caption "Who's your daddy?" I asked him about it and he made some remark... which his mother tried to backpedal. Because of this, for a long time I rarely went in there.

After the election of Obama I moved away. Occasionally, when I was in the old neighborhood, I would stop in and buy a tart or something. I don't buy cookies and so I don't know if they were good or not... the tarts were serviceable. I noted that the Bush picture was down and so I didn't mind going in - I guess I hadn't heard about the Drunken Negro Cookies.

Clearly, the kindest thing you could say was the owner was a bit out of touch with his customers.

Anonymous said...

This guy was racist, anti-Semitic, and sexist. I live around the corner, am a 28 year old greek girl, and one night he struck up conversation. When he started on a racist anti-Semitic rant, I clearly became offended and defensive, when he offered me this week’s special a "bloody tampon cookie". This guy is not welcome in the neighborhood and I am glad to see him gone.

Panic said...

Perhaps "you can't be sad" isn't the right way to say it. Here in Toronto we certainly mourn the passing of some grungy holes! There's a character to this place, if not a pleasant one. Still, given the description, it's amazing they lasted as long as they did. Cheers, Jeremiah!

Jeremiah Moss said...

thanks Panic. i see where you're coming from. i raised the question because it's something that comes up here often and it's an issue i think about.

AFineLyne said...

He had the best 7 layer cake in town & I too will mourn the loss of the signage - but his bad attitude was hard to take. There were many times (during the Obama campaign) when I said I'd never go back there. If he would have just stayed in the kitchen and let his Mom run the counter......

carl said...

So much anger and hostility. Must be New York.

Anonymous said...

Used to go there when they were on Bleecker and the father ran the place. Got apple strudel regularly, always good. The mom gave my daughter free cookies, with a smile. Once the son took over they lost it, and lost us - he convinced me to try his coffee once, calling it the best in the city. It was truly awful - food service coffee that had been on the burner way too long. A couple of similar experiences and we never stopped patronizing them. Amazing it lasted as long as it did.

Chuck said...

It's an all too familiar occurrence. I knew the father of this man.

Mom and pop work their butts off to build a business with a good following, working ungodly hours and often times, taking very little in the way of financial reward.

Then the kids take over and in a very short period of time, ruin what their parents spent their whole lives building for them.

I opened a business of my own just around the corner on Christopher Street in 1965 and patronized their Bleecker Street location for a good many years until I left NYC in 1993.

Thankfully, my store will be celebrating it's 50th anniversary on April 15th, 2015. I am certain that being nice to our customers all of those 50 years had a lot to do with our survival.

The father of the son who destroyed the Lafayette French Bakery that he built from scratch, must be turning over in his grave.