Supporters of the beloved Sullivan Street Bakery have started a GoFundMe campaign to help the shuttered cafe as they work to recover from a massive flood that swept through the Hell’s Kitchen headquarters in the run-up to Thanksgiving week.
Friends of the bakery begged customers to chip in as they highlighted Sullivan Street’s crucial role in the Hell’s Kitchen community. “Sullivan Street Bakery has been a staple of New York City since the 90s, bringing high quality bread to people and businesses,” wrote the organizers of the GoFundMe.
“Moreover, its main location in Hell’s Kitchen serves as a community hub and has hosted many an art show, community fundraiser and local knitting club. Regulars and non-regulars alike will know that Jim Lahey, the founder and owner, makes an effort to speak to customers, often engaging in long conversations. He is also a community connector — introducing customers to one another and bringing people together.”
In addition to the campaign, local organizations like the Hell’s Kitchen Litter Legion encouraged fans of the West Side bread stalwart to purchase gift cards from the bakery on Small Business Saturday and throughout the holiday season.
Sullivan Street co-owners Jim Lahey and Maya Joseph have been working around the clock to reopen, coordinating with countless city contractors, insurance representatives, electricians and plumbers to assess and repair the damage from the flood — which struck late Friday November 19 and filled the basement of their building with over 10 feet of water in less than 10 minutes. The cause of the breakage was still unknown, said Maya, but the pair were more focused on the repair process. Maya cited the top-notch Sullivan Street team as instrumental in their recovery. Staff immediately jumped in to help the emergency cleanup and triage their wholesale orders — even setting up camp across the street in a makeshift office to make do: “They’ve done incredible things,” she added.
Put out of service just before one of the busiest weeks of the year, the bakery — which provides bread for over 300 restaurants citywide — teamed up with Pain d’Avignon Bakery, Grandaisy Bakery, Orwashers, Il Forno Bakery, La Nicosia’s Bakery and Bread Alone Bakery to fulfill some of their wholesale holiday orders. “We’re so grateful to all of the bakeries who have been helping us out,” said Maya. Some of the local brands proactively reached out to lend a helping hand after hearing of the flood.
Jim added on Instagram: “I never imagined that I would need to become a bread distributor. As far as I am concerned for the moment, I do not bake bread but rather redistribute it. This is very ironic for an artisan baker. There are some things that I enjoy about this change but it’s a difficult one to accept. We are forced by circumstance to change or cease to exist. I prefer transformation over nonexistence. So change we must.”
The team is able to bake on a smaller scale out of their secondary Chelsea location — where, to add to the challenges of the week, the hard working staff was paid a visit by the New York City Health Department for a surprise inspection (they passed with flying colors).
Back in Hell’s Kitchen, the electricity and water have been restored — but the next challenge, said Maya, was to acquire a new gas booster system for their two largest bread ovens. “Our entire gas booster was underwater, so we have to buy a whole new system — and it’s not the kind of thing you can get off the rack,” she explained. Having also suffered damage to the flour silo, they will need to replace their full supply as well as the rest of their perishable ingredients. With one electric-powered oven available, they hope to reopen with a limited menu later in the week or early next week, she said, though they were still taking it day by day.
For now, West Side bread lovers can support the crew by stopping by the Chelsea location (236 9th Avenue between W24th and W25th Street) for a pastry, donating to the GoFundMe campaign, or grabbing a gift card online.