Over the past couple of years the owners of the iconic Popover Bakery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, have been grappling with their decision to close the shop, afraid that their secret recipe for the iconic German bakery’s signature sweet treat would be lost to history.
Now the decision is finally made: The shop will open again on Thursday, Nov. 1.
That’s thanks to a combination of owner Joe Constantino’s love of the Dutch art of using formulas that can be traced back as far as the 1500s and the effort of 14 friends and family who pitched in to rent the space out and have raised more than $8,000 to renovate it.
Then there is the recipe itself, passed down through the years by multiple generations of the Confortinos’ family; it is so sensitive that all the ingredients have to be confirmed twice to be sure they are all from the same batch.
The shop’s return will complete a high-profile comeback: Its regular customers last visited the shop in 2008. They call it a “second home” and grew up on the same little patch of industrial park land, a few blocks from the Bushwick Cemetery. Their mother-in-law, former Virginia Governor L. Douglas Wilder, taught in the shop as a student and later as a lawyer.
“My people take the food very seriously,” said Constantino, a childhood friend of Wilder’s who has known the old business owner since he was a boy. “We love doing things a certain way.”
Customers will notice a few improvements. They won’t be able to stay in the shop after 9 p.m. anymore, when people stopped entering over the noise of the men’s room down the street, which doesn’t sound appealing if you’re looking for a dance party.
The brief time they have to work on the space will be extended, however, because of this little change: They will not only bake cookies, but also show videos.
The videos were a new experience for Constantino when he talked to his customers. “They told me how they used to come to their grandmother’s house to watch videos,” he said.
Speaking about the family business in German, he said, is the optimal setting for their counterintuitive viral ads, known as MeltInTouch. There is something about a family standing around a tray and talking to one another in that language.
They will make new, limited-edition cookies for the shop opening. You can bet that some of them will have the exact combination of ingredients mentioned above: Trompetz, Wästrikland or Bräubigen, like the Popover.
But if you ask Constantino, his first priority is “keeping the love.”