Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Les Desirs to Sullivan St.

In the spring of 2010, we saw Les Desirs Patisserie shutter on 9th Avenue in Chelsea after a decade in business. A favorite socializing spot for seniors from the Penn South housing cooperative, Les Desirs was a special place. When Penn South refused to renew the lease, a petition circulated to save it and neighbors fought to keep it, but the bakery vanished anyway.

The upscale mini-chain Sullivan Street Bakery was rumored to take its place and, recently, it did.

Decked in lots of rustic wood and high bar stools, and manned by an army of green-shirted baristas (or whatever they call bread bakery counterpersons), Sullivan Street Bakery is nothing like Les Desirs.

When I visited Les Desirs, it was filled with octogenarians and they were singing Tin Pan Alley tunes. Together, we sang "Ukulele Lady" while the Hawaiian woman among them got up to do a hula dance. Maybe this still happens here, I don't know.

I saw one elderly, frail woman enter the Sullivan Street Bakery and she was treated with great kindness by the green shirts. But mostly, the clientele consisted of young professional-looking people, carrying little dogs and interacting with their phones. They didn't go to Les Desirs, and I never saw them around this area, but now they are here. They seem to have a sixth sense for when these types of places open, because they came through the door in flocks.



And they're too busy making phone calls to sing a group rendition of "Ukulele Lady."

Les Desirs Vanishing
Les Desirs Plus
Desirs' Demise
Last Day at Desirs


Ms. said...

You're singing to the choir in this one J. Except for the ubiquitous poetry circuit, I'm a stay at home, or escape up North to old friends sort of senior. Seriously, doesn't the group in picture #1 feel more congenial than the single with her cell in picture #2? Too many sighs today with Gore Vidal gone too. But, on a lighter note--the Roaches, if it doesn't rain out, are doing a free gig at Madison Square Park tonight at 6"30

Laura Goggin Photography said...

There is now an empty storefront on Sullivan Street where the bakery used to be. It was a popular spot in the morning for coffee an pastry and I will miss seeing the locals and dogs sitting on the benches outside. This loss, along with the closing of Puerto Rico over on Thompson, takes away another chunk of neighborhood community. One area's loss is another's gain.

Laura Goggin Photography said...

Ok, to follow up on my comment, Sullivan Street Bakery was replaced on Sullivan by Grandaisy for a while. They're both gone now.

Marty Wombacher said...

"Together, we sang "Ukulele Lady" while the Hawaiian woman among them got up to do a hula dance."

Treasure that memory, because it ain't going to happen at the new place.

mch said...

Here in my small New England town, it burned down: a local dive right on our little main street, a spot much beloved by all (well, the cops kind of got tired of aspects of its very late nightlife, and can't say I blame 'em, but, well, that's life). Locally owned and operated forever (everyone knew not just the "most recent" -- do decades count? -- owner but her parents, her grandparents, her brothers-in-law, her exes, her dog). Awful, but these things happen, and at least no one was hurt. (Including none of the local volunteer firefighters -- yeah, we know them, too. So amazing, what folks takes on. I feel awe and shame: what do I give that's comparable?)

The new version of said dive -- well, it has the same name, and that's about it. Some nominally "local" moneybag has "invested" (he'll get awards from the C of C, no doubt). Admittedly, the food is hugely better, if also much more expensive. But who ever went to the old place for the quality of the food? You were hungry? You ate, something, while you talked with the people you'd come with --and with the people at the next table, at the bar. (Or if you didn't talk with one another, you registered one another, you measured up one another, you gave thought to one another in a way that might matter tomorrow or the next day in some obscure way.) The beer and scotch were thin, yeah. So? Ordering another round, you could linger without getting drunk. At lunch, you might not even order a beer -- that was fine. It all felt like home.

But now, the people -- who are these people? Tourists, nearly all, here today, gone tomorrow. And the waitresses, local though they be, all sound like valley girls (they must be trained to talk this way -- this is just NOT the way anyone around here really talks). Most of all: the noise! Not just the piped music, but the din produced by the intentional ignorance of modern acoustical science. Or rather, by the exploitation of that science: everything so noisy, on some opaque purpose, that you don't easily talk with your own table, must less the adjacent one. (I guess you buy more drinks if you can't hear anything?) For whom is everyone performing in this world where no one can hear much of anything?

When I drive down to Wassaic or, all the way, to the city via Route 22 which becomes the Hutch (so much beauty -- truly, achingly beautiful!), I am reminded: the age-old mutual dependence of city and farm. We, city and country, are being mutually invaded right now. But you know, the children of soil, cement, and sweat will win. We must have faith. Even that lithe and lovely young woman on the cell: she has a heart. I know she does, and she'll come 'round. (Who really knows, from a shot like that? She may already be one of us.)

Les Desirs, you're not alone.

randall said...


Well said!

Anonymous said...

I pass this new place daily and I don't think I'll ever go in. It looks dark and uninviting and there's nothing in the windows. Too bad. I thought it might be kind of quaint, even if more expensive than what it replaced.

Penelope said...

I was sad to see SUllivan St Bakery/Grandaisy close on Sullivan Street...and thought I would see something posted on your blog...their cauliflower "pizza" is yummy.

As an O.G. P.S.3er, it's disheartening to see how sterile the city is becoming...really how many Duane Reade's, Sleepy Mattress & 7/11s do we need! I agree with the posting about 9.11 and Bloomberg - but I'm not giving up on NYC yet:)

Love your blog - thank you for sharing it~Penelope