The Arcade Bakery in New York will shut on August 2nd

The last day of this unique bakery is August 2nd.
Photo: Jed Egan

You have to start with the incredible smell, a mixture of warm butter, gently toasted cereal, maybe a little vanilla and sugar to soften it a little. It’s a combination that can instantly calm anyone; It makes you feel like someone cares. You don’t expect this scent to hit you in the lobby of an office building, but surprisingly, this is the aroma of 220 Church Street, a standard professional complex in Tribeca that houses a real estate office and public health clinic, among other things. One of New York’s best bakeries is also hidden in the building.

“Everyone is talking about it,” says Roger Gural of this wonderful, already perfumed perfume, “but I don’t smell it.” In the five years since Gural opened the Arcade Bakery in that long, narrow corridor, he’s just got used to it. Gural usually comes to the bakery around 4 a.m. – earlier on a Friday – to start production and bake for four hours. The location, which is more like a window, isn’t the type of space you choose as it leads to explosive expansion or franchise opportunities. Customers didn’t just come across Arcade. If they missed the little metal sign that was on the outside of the building – or even if they saw it – they might have no idea that they could just walk in and spend about $ 7 on crispy baguettes, for example. Puff pastries; floating loaves of dense sourdough; European-style ham and comté substitute sandwiches; and pizzas to order with – very chic – baguette batter. (There’s also the god-level creation known as the laminated baguette, which resembles a previously unknown combination of croissant and French bâtard. It has probably earned more fame than ever before.) The small kiosk is the kind of space someone takes up if he wants to open a bakery specializing in baking.

According to Gural, the inconvenient location allowed him to rent more physical space and not have to bake off-site. “My passion and enthusiasm as a baker always came from the European model,” explains Gural, “with a really fresh product that is baked on site.” The freshness is immediately visible to everyone who eats, well … everything. The baguettes practically break. Pastries peel off like butterflies fluttering from real butter.

The location also allowed Gural to slowly expand its menu and wait for the public to find it – almost entirely through word of mouth – instead of feeling the pressure to open large and attract customers immediately. For Gural, the challenge of the location has always been, “Can we make a product that is good enough that people are another 500 feet from the street to get it?”

Like the best of stores, Arcade always felt like an extension of its owner. it exudes warmth, humility, honesty and passion. “The hours and work of a food company are so intense,” says Gural. “It is not sustainable to do something that you are not excited about.”

Gural’s delicate pastries are among the best in town. Jed Egan.

Gural’s delicate pastries are among the best in town. Jed Egan.

After Friday, Gural Arcade will finally close. He has said that being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis made it too difficult to keep up with the demands of the job, and so he tried to sell the business even though nothing moved beyond meetings and conversations. Whatever happens, Gural won’t be there and Arcade will inevitably miss its charm and humility when it comes back.

As it stands, New York will miss it too. Since Gural announced its closure earlier this month, lines have extended regularly to the building’s entrance, and everything is sold out by early afternoon. The place was never empty, but Cronut-like lines and sourdough shortages weren’t something to worry about either. According to Gural, business has grown 50 percent during what is usually the slowest time of the year. When he talks to him about this tip, he says that it is not the blessing someone might think and that for the most part, they wish they could bake more and move the line faster. “I feel bad,” he says, “that we can’t treat all customers the way we’d like.”

The fantasy of New York is that it is full of hidden gems, little idiosyncratic places where really talented people can follow their passions. They know that there are enough people here to share their enthusiasm and support them if only they work hard and do something decent. The reality, of course, is that spots as focused and sincere as Arcade are rare and when they do appear they tend to go away quickly. They are more like moments in time than actual businesses. So if you find one, look for it and do everything possible to help. It is clear that they are working hard to give you the best and make the city better and it is the least we can do to return the favor. But then when a place like Arcade disappears, the city feels a little less special than before.

Eat like the experts.

Sign up for the Grub Street newsletter.

Terms of use and privacy policy

Comments are closed.