Bakers come together in times of need, and the recent Hurricane Sandy proved no exception.
Every few years, a major natural disaster seems to hit somewhere in the United States and devastates an entire region. Recently, it was Hurricane Sandy (or Superstorm Sandy as many in the media call it) followed a week later by Winter Storm Athena (because yes, blizzards and nor’easters are now also named). It has been a few weeks now since the storm hit, and bakers have been able to take stock and get their bakeries back in order for the upcoming holiday season. I spoke with Paul Sapienza, who owns Sapienza Pastry in Elmont, N.Y., located on Long Island, a hard-hit area.
His bakery, which is about five miles inland, was spared the brunt of the storm, but was still without power for more than four days. As any bakery owner knows, the loss of power can be just as devastating as a flood due to material loss. While distributors were able to make deliveries, Sapienza had to turn them away until power was restored. Sapienza, an active member of the New York State Bakers Association, kept in touch with many bakers in the area, and he, along with many others, was relieved to learn that the majority of bakeries only sustained minor flooding and power outages. While by no means a complete list, I was glad to hear that many of the bakeries I have covered over the years where still standing, and the many bakers I have gotten to know were getting on with the business of baking.
The hardest hit many are taking is from the loss of sales. While Thanksgiving doesn’t really kick into until next week, Sapienza did report that the first weekend his bakery was back open, sales were down by about one-third of what he’d normally see. He’s expecting Thanksgiving sales to be down about 20 percent. “Business is starting to pick up a bit but I’m worried about the holidays,” he said. “How long does it take the public to come back around?” After speaking to some bakers in the southern states who are regularly hit by hurricanes, he’s hoping that his customers will be ready to celebrate Christmas.
And in true baker fashion, many bakers are reaching out to help others. Lulu’s Bakery in Fresh Meadows, Queens is selling Hope & Faith and I (heart) NY cupcakes to help raise relief funds. The cupcakes are sold for $1.50 with 50 percent donated to families affected by the storm. Mother Mousse Bakery, in Staten Island, which was the hardest hit of all New York’s boroughs, is selling Rebuild, Restore, Recover t-shirts for a minimum $15 donation and all proceeds go hurricane relief.
I was glad to hear that many bakeries survived and wasn’t at all surprised to learn that bakers were reaching out to other members in their community who are in need. The baking industry has always been good when disaster strikes.