If you ever meandered up Vanderbilt Avenue in search of the Brooklyn Flea, perhaps you’ve caught a whiff of a toasty, sweet fragrance that’s strong enough to dismantle a conversation and prompt pedestrians to stop and wildly sniff the air. “What’s that smell?! Baking pastries? Toasted bread?” It’s something local residents have know for some time: The neighborhood reeks of baked goods. Beigel Bakery Company, a family-run kosher bakery that’s been in operation since 1948, is the covert scent generator.
The bakery was conceived by a Polish immigrant, Israel Beigel, who fled to the U.S. after the war and set up shop in the Lower East Side, though history goes back much further. The Beigels had been in business in Cracow for generations prior German invasion; notably, they also fed the Jewish community during occupation. In the ’50s, the company moved to Williamsburg, and 10 years ago, relocated again to an industrial block of Waverly Street, just north of Atlantic Avenue. There were initial complaints about the incessant odor, “in the beginning, a little from the neighbors,” says president Joseph Folger. But the aromatic melding of proofing challah, their popular black-and-white cookies, baking danishes, and a hundred other products is mostly enchanting.
The fluffy browned loaves of challah sit just out of arms reach in stacks, behind the gated doors of their factory, for wholesale only. You can find them at small Jewish bakeries around the city, Costco, and Sam’s Club, or just inhale their fresh-from-the-oven scent. Here’s to welcome olfactory bonuses of a neighborhood.