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Two of the three storefronts Amy’s Bread has long occupied have been papered up, all the humongous ovens removed.
It must be accounted as something of a setback for Chelsea Market, if you’re going by the original plan. When the 22-building complex — originally a Nabisco factory — opened in 1997, it was intended as a haven for food-related businesses and a resource for chefs and home cooks, who’d be able to buy raw materials and equipment at the market. Artisanally produced foods and farmstead products would also be available for a growing gastronomic cognoscenti. Now one of the market’s most prominent tenants, Amy’s Bread, is moving its baking operations to Long Island City.
The retail store remains open, selling bread made who knows how long ago in Long Island City.
Over the past 15 years, Chelsea Market has had various problems. It had trouble retaining tenants and keeping a mix of retail stores that, say, would make it a one-stop place for someone preparing a dinner party that evening. For a while, there was no butcher. The complex added more square footage, and smaller businesses moved in. There’s a cheese monger now, and vegetable stand, seafood supplier, butcher shop, and liquor store, but losing the only bakery selling fresh-baked bread is a blow.
We’ll also miss the sight of all those white-clad bakers making bread and pastries in the windows, and one suspects that was one of the things that attracted tourists, too.
You see, over the past few years, Chelsea Market has turned into more of a tourists’ food court than a supply depot for cooks and chefs. It’s still a good place to buy kitchen necessities, but one has to fight busloads of tourists to even navigate the uneven walkways. Cupcakes have become omnipresent.
This is all in the context of the touristification of Manhattan, a process the mayor has wholly supported. I’m really glad that Amy’s Bread is not completely moving out of the city. But a loaf baked a day ago in Long Island City is not the same as a loaf baked a few hours before, right on the premises, by bakers you can watch.
Indeed, when I bought my baguettines (tiny baguettes) for breakfast this past Sunday, they were notably stale.
A handbill posted in the window of the papered-up facilities promises that Amy’s Bread won’t be leaving Chelsea Market entirely.
“We are not leaving Chelsea Market. Although our kitchen has outgrown Chelsea Market, Amy’s Bread will continue to have a presence here, with a renovated retail store and small bread kitchen. . . . Our remodeled 2,000-square-foot retail storefront will be placed where our ovens have been. It will also feature a baking demo kitchen. We still want visitors to see dough being mixed, shaped, and fresh bread being pulled from the oven!” Presumably, this will be accomplished Disneyland-style with audio-animatronic figures.
My baguettines were notably stale.
Full text of handbill.