Two childhood friends are resurrecting a beloved neighborhood Scandinavian bakery that closed its doors last year.
Leske’s Bakery, which provided sweet treats, cakes and pastries to Bay Ridgeites for more than five decades before closing last May during a lease squabble with its landlord, will reopen this spring under new management: neighborhood bread wholesaler Steven DeSimone and his baker buddy Stephen Howe, a former employee at the neighborhood staple.
“My buddy [Howe] worked at Leske’s for six years. When I saw that the gates were down, I thought I would give the public the Leske’s items they like,” explained DeSimone. “I thought this was a great opportunity for my friend and myself to bring things back to the neighborhood the way it was.”
Howe had been a baker for 22 years, getting his start at his family’s store Olsen’s in Sunset Park and later refining his craft at Leske’s, the French Culinary Institute, and the Yale Club.
As fate would have it, Howe was in between jobs when DeSimone called him about his idea for Leske’s, he said.
“[DeSimone’s] my best friend, we’ve known each other since the fourth grade,” said Howe. “So when he said to me, ‘Listen, do you think we can do this?’ I said, ‘absolutely!’ ”
Howe and DeSimone said customers can look forward to the return of all the original Scandinavian Leske’s recipes — from danishes to marzipan cakes to pecan rings — plus some new additions from DeSimone, who runs New York Homemade Breads.
“We’re going to have bagels, rolls, muffins, raisin breads, Swiss breads, Italian breads, any kind of bread you can think of,” DeSimone explained, adding that former Leske’s bakers have been recruited to take part in this grand reopening.
Local leaders say they are excited about Leske’s coming back.
“We’re very supportive of Leske’s reopening. We love Leske’s,” says Josephine Beckmann, District Manager for Community Board 10, adding that the store’s revival will reverse the trend of shuttering storefronts along Fifth Avenue.
Jim Clark, President of the Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District, is upbeat as well.
“We can’t wait till it reopens. We all miss it,” says Clark.
But for Howe, it’s not about making Danish confections again — it’s about restoring Bay Ridge’s character as a community.
“I come from the time of baking where you wake up Sunday morning, there was a line around the block, and you knew everybody’s name that came in. It’s not like that anymore,” Howe says. “I’m not too happy with the way times have changed. I’d like to bring that old flavor back.”
Leske’s Bakery [7612 Fifth Avenue at 76th Street in Bay Ridge; (718) 680-2323].