Friday, June 22, 2012

I’m a Baker’s Cousin

About a year ago I discovered that my cousin Jim opened a bakery, right smack in the middle of trendy lower Manhattan.

This was a surprise to me since, up until that point, I wasn’t sure my cousin had even opened a can of tuna...and now he was opening entire bakeries.

So it really goes to show, every time you think you know a person, you find out you don’t…and then they go and open a bakery.

And not just a bakery, but a very successful bakery that caters to everyone from students to movie stars…construction workers to internet wizards and everyone and everything in between.

But not Hobbits.  The Hobbits refuse to wear shoes so they’re not allowed in the store. So that’s another plus.

Some notable celebrities, known for their unadulterated views, have even gone on national late night talks shows and talked about how they fill their bathtubs with their butter cream icing, or something like that…I’m not sure.

The name of this place is called Empire Cake and can be found on 8th Avenue, between 15th and 16th street.  I was there this past weekend, and even at 11 PM there was a steady stream of people coming in and out to snatch up a box or two or three of their version of Snowballs and Twinkies, and other assorted goodies, which is exactly what that hour on a Saturday night in NYC calls for. 

People passing by would actually stop and take pictures of the cakes and cupcakes featured in the windows, as if they were documenting a gallery of fine jewels on display at Tiffany’s.

Only this is better because you can’t get a cake made into a life sized replica of Mitt Romney, if you’re so inclined, at Tiffany’s.

So people can fool you, especially me…and usually do.

This particular cousin was born about a year and a decade after I arrived, along with his older brother, who was more like my twin bro than my cuz, growing up.

Since Jim was the first human being that either of us had experienced from baby to baker, you can imagine the delight we took in experimenting in how to make his young life somewhat…difficult.

Nothing major, just little things like throwing a wayward foot out in front of him as he was happily mastering the art of walking. Something, he claims, to this day, led to his extreme bowlegged stride.


Years later we became close in a way that cousins become brothers, and brothers become friends, by doing odd jobs together for his mom’s, my aunt's, market research business.

Aside from assignments such as peering into people’s cars to see if they were wearing seatbelts, or spying on bank tellers and grocers, we spent most every Saturday night through the 90s in various Manhattan movie theatres handing out and compiling surveys to determine for the Hollywood crowd if their paying customers would “definitely recommend” a film to their friends.

Unfortunately, but happily, we spent most of our evening pay frequenting nearby bars in-between screenings, drinking beer and consuming hot wings and burgers by the bushel. But mostly we talked and we talked and we talked…about life and about living…and in this way we came to appreciate and know each other beyond the bonds and bounds of family.

However, time keeps rolling and as in all things real, people move on to chase other endeavors and dreams and vanish for a while into their own worlds.

But not forever. 

Sooner or later we all resurface, come up for air, reconnect and return to that last second in time you hung out together; a moment deferred much longer than you would have ever thought possible.

Then you open your mouth to bridge the gap and the first words you say are:

“Will I get a ticket out there?”

And the response is:

”Why are you asking me?  You have to read the signs!”

And magically, just like that, 7 lost years are found.

And if that includes a bakery in the process, all the better because I’m telling you those Snowballs and Twinkies are to die for.  Well, maybe not to die for, because really, what is…but certainly to risk a serious bruising. Still, it’s close….

And did I mention the Black & White cookies, cupcakes, specialty cakes, scones, cinnamon buns and everything else you would expect to find in a trendy lower east side bakery that my cousin Jim opened with his pal and baker partner Eric, who may or may not have actually opened a can of tuna at one time or another. But Eric’s a lawyer so there were probably loop holes and we can’t really be certain. 

Check them out if you find yourself wandering 8th Avenue between 15th and 16th looking for something fun to ruin your dinner.  Plus they’ll probably make you laugh.

And if you mention The Freelance Retort, they might serve you anyway….

I'm a Baker's Cousin.
The Baker & Me

You think you know a person....


  1. awesome!! did you notice your horns in the picture?!?!?

    1. That's so funny...I hadn't noticed before and no one's ever mentioned it. And it's been hanging on my fridge for about a year and half. Z took the picture, though, and now that I think about it, she did keep telling me to move to my right....hmmmmmm.

    2. maybe she wanted the horns to be perfectly positioned over your head...

    3. Sorry for the posting delay. There's a "moderation" feature in place for old posts to prevent spam. I am slow to moderate sometime.... Doesn't effect current posts so keep the comments coming....

    4. oh, don't worry, they shall keep coming... ;0)

    5. and love your writing! now i have to check out this bakery...know that area well- spend a fair amount of time at Koffeecake Corner down the block. now i have a new place to get fat at.

  2. LOL..will check it out on next trip to reading your stories.

    1. Thanks V! It's actually rare to find someone who likes to read anything, even among friends...or at least most of my friends. We have to get you signed up with a Google account so you can lose the mysterious "Anonymous" moniker. Although mystery kind of suits you, in a way.....


Retort to the Retort -

“Is there anybody alive out there…”