One last treat from Glaser’s

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Sadness and support after a century of service from the iconic Upper East Side bakery


  • Lines went down the block in the last week before Glaser's closed. Photo courtesy of Office of Ben Kallos.

  • Council Member Ben Kallos (left) honors Glaser's with a proclamation. Photo courtesy of Office of Ben Kallos

The air is oppressively hot, with official sources saying it’s somewhere in the mid-90s, but you wouldn’t be able to tell by looking at the line wrapping around the corner of First Avenue and 87th Street. In the final week of June, those in line braved heat, humidity and rapid-onset summer storms, all in the hopes of getting one last treat from Glaser’s Bake Shop before its final day of operation on July 1st.

In a post on the bakery’s Facebook page on March 2, Herb Glaser, the grandson of founder John Herbert Glaser, broke the news of Glaser’s impending closing. The response was passionate and immediate. The post garnered over 1,300 reactions, more than 900 of which were Facebook’s “sad” reaction, as well as nearly 600 comments expressing sadness and support.

One such supporter, Robyn Roth-Moise, who waited two and a half hours to get her last haul from Glaser’s, said she will miss the place the shop held in the community. “I love mom and pop shops, and places where people recognize you when you come in.” She also shared her own memories of Glaser’s, remembering the way the cakes she bought always “were baked and decorated with love.”

While Glaser’s remained steadfast for over a century, the neighborhood around it has seen dramatic change. Glaser’s opened in 1902, the creation of John Herbert Glaser, who immigrated from Germany and came to settle in the area now known as Yorkville, then known as “Germantown” due to its reputation as a haven for German immigrants.

These days, however, it’s hard to see much German in the former Germantown. Glaser’s was one of the few remaining German businesses left, with the Schaller & Weber market a few blocks away a rare exception. A cursory look around the neighborhood will find an Irish flag at a bar around the corner to be a solitary identifier of any national identity.

Despite their enduring popularity, Glaser’s’ long run has not been without bumps. In December 2012, the store was briefly shut down by the Health Department after mice were discovered during an inspection. Although the shop was forced to miss out on the lucrative Christmas business, it quickly returned to serving Yorkville, and received an “A” on every health inspection since.

As Glaser’s’ last week neared, the shows of support only escalated. On June 29, City Council Member Ben Kallos presented the shop with a proclamation, enumerating details from its illustrious history. Amid the myriad details is one that took Glaser’s’ impact beyond the local — its fame as the possible originator of the iconic black and white cookie.

While July 1st may have marked the end for Glaser’s Bake Shop, it was also a new beginning for the man who bears its name. Herb Glaser, along with his brother John, say that they plan to sell the building that houses the shop, and Herb plans to retire to his house in New Paltz.

Although the Glaser family will soon depart, it was their ownership of the building that allowed them to stay open for so long. Roth-Moise noted that “it is nice that they made the choice to retire and close the shop instead of being forced to close due to rent,” while also expressing worry for the future of the neighborhood. “What we don’t need is another tall building coming in and tearing down these old buildings.”

As the heat of the late afternoon sun burned on Sunday, the heat of the ovens at 1670 First Avenue died down for the last time. A few hours earlier, the block had been packed with locals and visitors alike, eagerly hoping for an edible souvenir of their own. Now, the street is quiet. Pedestrians stroll past at a brisk pace, hoping to escape the sun. Glaser’s eggshell blue sign looks a bit duller, as bright afternoon light casts long shadows across it.

Although Glaser’s may be gone, its memory lives on in all those who frequented it. Roth-Moise recalled an exchange she had with Herb Glaser, inquiring about what would become of the shop’s displays. “He said if you can take them out, they are yours. He doesn’t need any physical pieces of the store. All of his memories [pointing to his head] are up here.”

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