An East Side Bread Line for nearly a century 45 Years and Counting

| 13 Jul 2015 | 03:10

    Every week, Our Town will celebrate our 45th anniversary by profiling a neighborhood business that has been around longer than we have. Know of a local business that should be on our list? Email us at

    Talk about a successful rise. Orwasher’s Bakery has been supplying sustenance to hungry New Yorkers in the form of rye, sourdough, and wheat for over 99 years.

    Orwasher’s was family-owned and operated from 1916 until 2007, when Keith Cohen took the helm. Cohen, 44, has helped lead a great expansion. Besides the storefront on E. 78th Street, off of 2nd Avenue, Orwasher’s supplies bread to Gourmet Garage, Citarella, and Zabar’s, along with Gramercy Tavern, Untitled (the restaurant at the Whitney Museum), and others.

    Queens native Cohen spent 14 years in the bread business before taking over Orwasher’s. Knowing that he needed to expand beyond bread, Cohen began to line the store’s shelves with products from Peanut Butter & Co., Rick’s Picks, Beth’s Farm Kitchen, butter from Vermont, cheeses, pastries, and three years ago began selling donuts, fried in small batches and filled to-order with custom-made jam supplied by Beth’s. “We’re a small producer, so we try to use local suppliers as much as we can.”

    On a recent Thursday morning, the steady flow of customers included Albert Olsen, 80, has been shopping at Orwasher’s on and off for 54 years. He explains that being of European heritage, “we like good bread,” and while the salt stick is his personal favorite, on this day, rye was the choice—his wife’s preference.

    While munching on a “to die for” cranberry scone, Maria Cabrera, 51, raved about the sourdough and whole wheat breads and added with a smirk, “If my husband’s lucky, maybe I’ll save him some [of the scone].”

    When asked if he had a favorite bread, Cohen explained his special affinity for the Chardonnay miche, which was the first new bread recipe launched under his leadership in November 2008.

    Cohen’s passion for bread led him and one of his bakers to France to learn how to duplicate the authentic French baguette. To this day, the flour supplied for the baguettes comes delivered from a small mill in France.

    Long-time Upper East Side resident Meryl Weiner, 58, explains: “Their baguettes are true French baguettes… crusty and extremely tasty. Other baguettes I’ve had more resemble Italian bread. When you want a real French baguette, get it from Orwasher’s.”

    “Let’s face it, any bread you like, you’ll love it from Orwasher’s,” Weiner adds.

    Sharing his knowledge, two years ago Cohen released a cookbook: Orwasher’s Artisan Bread: 100 Years of Techniques and Recipes.

    And speaking of 100 years, any plans for a centennial celebration? “We’ll definitely do something special and since few businesses make it to 100 years, we’re hoping the city might help us out,” Cohen said.

    “It is all about being able to adapt,” he said. “I hope that we can maintain our standards and are still relevant for the next 100 years.”