Being a carbohydrate lover in Brooklyn Heights is costly — and I don’t mean having to sacrifice your size-6 jeans.
The price of wheat recently hit an all-time high due in part to a drought and gasoline surcharges, and businesses that make a buck on baked goods are feeling the crunch. But not all of our neighborhood stores are dealing with recent economic pressure in the same way.
Lassen and Hennigs, a neighborhood staple for almost 60 years, has six full-time bakers at its store at 114 Montague St. Prices have gone up in the past few weeks, so I sought out the owners to find out how the higher cost of wheat is affecting business. But a man who identified himself as “the owner,” suggested that I was making a famine out of a weak harvest.
“Everything went up in the last couple months: eggs, butter, milk, nuts, raisins,” he said. “It’s all expensive … just take it as it is. Customers don’t notice. They don’t know what’s up.”
I asked again for his name.
“I’m not telling you my name.”
Click. I didn’t realize wheat was such a hot-blooded issue.
Two weeks ago, Montague Street Bagels, on Montague Street between Henry and Hicks streets, increased prices by 10 cents a bagel to 80 cents. To explain its move, the store posted an article on the rising cost of wheat.
Another vendor of floury treats was willing to talk, however.
“Just add water, flour, eggs, labor, the Health Department and taxes … and then you have something that nobody can afford,” said Jim Montemarano, the owner of Cranberry’s, which is at near the corner of Henry and Cranberry streets.
Two weeks ago, Montemarano raised prices, blaming increased fuel surcharges from his suppliers. He posted three signs to help his customers understand the complicated issue.
“Now people are starting to ask what’s going on with the prices,” he said. “All I can say is, ‘Well, I’ve been trying to tell you.’”
For all you scrooges, the neighborhood has one purveyor that can endure most major economic fluctuations.
“We haven’t raised prices for at least 10 years and we’re not planning to,” said Chris Kierski, manager of Grimaldi’s pizza on Old Fulton Street. The famed coal-oven pie shop is even swallowing a surcharge from their suppliers “because of gasoline and everything,” Kierski said, but the price of a sublime large pie remains $14.
Kierski admitted that Grimaldi’s could easily get away with raising prices — just look at the line of customers that stretches down the block — but said that the pizzeria will just “swallow” the added costs.
“We love our customers,” he said.
So does Montemarano: “At the end of the day, we try to raise prices very minimally. If I [raise prices] 15 to 20 cents, people think I’m making a killing.” He’s not.
Indeed in this case, whether cantankerous or concerned, our local shopowners are not to blame for the carbo crisis.
Juliana Bunim is a writer who lives in Brooklyn Heights.
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