Thursday night, Erin Patinkin and Agatha Kulaga took another step towards turning their beloved Ovenly into the biggest bakery on the planet, with the soft-opening of a new Park Slope location on Flatbush Avenue. True, it's only their second stand-alone location—though in addition to the Greenpoint mothership they also run a booth at the Urbanspace Vanderbilt Market plus a thriving wholesale business—but the two women have big dreams for their business, and the baking skills to back it up. They also have four locations or seasonal encampments coming later this year, including a new Ovenly in Williamsburg and a stint at the Down To Earth Market in McGolrick Park in the fall.
Ovenly, of course, is already home to one of the NYC best cookies, as well as a dozen or more other superb sorts of cakes, cookies, and pastries, so it's almost unfair to everyone else that they added four excellent new creations to their menu to coincide with the expansion.
There's an amazing Hot Chocolate Cookie, for example, which is intensely cocoa-flavored with blobs of homemade marshmallow hidden within. The After School Special is like a peanut butter and jelly treat in vanilla-cake Twinkie format. The Sticky Donut Cake is crazy dense and loaded with butterscotch ribbons.
But the sleeper hit is probably the gooey Marshmallow Treat, with coconut flakes and tart bits of dehydrated strawberry adding a whole new level of excitement to the chewy, crispy classic. Most of Ovenly's signature items are here on Flatbush Avenue as well, and Patinkin and Kulaga will also offer both sweet and savory sandwiches, the latter made with their terrific new Everything Croissant. Coffee service is provided by Joe.
Erin Patinkin and Agatha Kulaga (Scott Lynch/Gothamist)
But Ovenly is about more than just being the best overall bakery in NYC (though it is, in fact, exactly that). We had a chance to chat with the founders at last night's preview party. Here are a few excerpts:
What we'd really like to talk to you about tonight are your plans for global domination.
Erin Patinkin: So it starts with bakeries, and it ends with the White House. Seriously, though... we have been working on this company for seven years—I can't believe seven years has past!—and when we first started we were all wholesale, then we opened our Greenpoint location, then the stand in the Vanderbilt Market. And though we founded the company from a desire to make people great pastries, we discovered that we love the hospitality part of the business as much as the feeding part. Now we we want to open a lot more retail locations... so many, in fact, that we become every neighborhood's bakery. That's our goal.
Agatha Kulaga: We want to be the neighborhood bakery of every neighborhood in the city. And it's always been that way! We didn't start this whole thing thinking we'd only be a local mom and pop shop; we really want to bring great baked goods to every market. But because we've seen a lot of companies lose their quality when they grow, our most important requirement in every expansion is to make sure we're scaling our craftsmanship along with the manufacturing.
We are really obsessed with quality, and attention to detail, and we have an incredible team who is also focussed on every detail. Everything that we sell is handmade and that is not going to change, and I think that people will notice that, no matter how big we get, there will always be a lot of care and love put into everything we make.
How does your background in social justice and social work inform the way you run your bakeries?
Patinkin: Back in 2012 we started really thinking: "Are we just selling cookies?" And we realized that what we also wanted to do was create quality jobs for people, and that became one of our key areas of focus. We're a manufacturing company with a retail component and we knew that we could start training people who didn't necessarily have the proper resume to be skilled laborers. And we're constantly amazed by how talented people are who maybe don't have any background in baking or manufacturing, or sometimes had even never had a job before.
Kulaga: We currently have a team of 56, with 36 working in the kitchen, and 40 percent of our employees are either political refugees or people who have been previously incarcerated or involved in the criminal justice system.
The new Ovenly is located at 210 Flatbush Avenue between Dean and Bergen Streets. The grand opening is next Wednesday, July 5, but there will be a limited-hour soft-opening going on starting June 30th and throughout the holiday weekend. (oven.ly)