My first ever solo trip to NY was in the summer of 2014. I was making a list of places to go visit and being a coffeeholic, I was highly recommended City Bakery by a concierge at a hotel. I remember walking in and thinking – this is not a typical bakery or what I expected. High ceilings and an airy yet welcoming and laid back atmosphere with an amazing choice of breakfast and lunch options. I just had to come back one winter (for the hot chocolate as it was too hot in August to have it!) and find out what the story behind City Bakery was and what inspired Maury to begin this concept.
When Maury asked me what I’d like to have, I let him decide. I had the pretzel croissant, french toast and hot chocolate = heaven. Those are definitely the three items you must try on your first visit to City Bakery. Now I just wish there was a City Bakery in London and I hope it isn’t a long way to go!
What is your story?
I started City Bakery 25 years ago in New York. I used to work in sports television. (By the way, Maury has won Emmy Awards during his television career!) During a trip to France, I decided to take a pastry course which inspired me to come back and launch a bakery in New York. Back then the bakeries in New York were all neighbourhood bakeries and that’s all people knew of. I wanted to bring something different to the table.
What made City Bakery stand out?
City Bakery was a new generation of bakeries. I always wanted to keep the interiors simplistic yet artistic. I gave it a very straightforward name and offered traditional French pastry. The menu had traditional French muffins and savoury options at the same time. People back then didn’t think of a bakery as a place where they could have both sweet and savoury. This changed their perception. City Bakery was the first in the city to change the model of baking.
What does loyalty mean to you?
Loyalty still exists but time is against it. For me, loyalty is when our customers ensure that City Bakery is a part of whatever they have planned for the day – whether it begins or ends at City Bakery or is their midday pitstop for a pretzel croissant and hot chocolate. It is not just a cafe that happens to be on your route to somewhere and you go there as it is the only option you have – loyalty to City Bakery isn’t about convenience. I know my longstanding customers look forward to coming here and they’ll plan a day that involves a trip to City Bakery. Many customers have moved away from the city but will yet visit every time they are in town. This is what loyalty is really about.
On a side note, this completely changed my personal perception of how people will associate with cafes, bakeries and restaurants. If you are ever confused about whether you are loyal to a place, you should ask yourself the question of whether you are just going there for convenience or is it actually a key destination for you?