EAST VILLAGE — A beloved longtime bakery is looking to fire up its ovens again by appealing to investors to help refill its shelves with items like truffle buttons, chocolate-covered bananas and a signature cake known as "The Mysterious Blob."
"It is a red velvet cake in a ball, a little bit of cream cheese and pure vanilla bean extract in the center so it's a little moist," said Ava Gryga, who owns and operates Something Sweet bakery on East 11th Street and First Avenue, along with her parents. "The whole thing is then dipped in white chocolate so its look like a blob."
"The Mysterious Blob" was one of the bakeshop's biggest sellers before a city Health Department closure coupled with a family illness in July 2012 left its doors shuttered. The bakery, a fixture since the 1970s, is now making a push to reopen by courting investors, entrepreneurs and that ever-important ingredient — a head baker.
"My mother really misses the store, my father misses it," Gryga said. "The store is their life. It gave them a sense of being."
Her mother, Kathy, has been working at the bakery for more than three decades, taking over ownership in 1998.
"I miss all my customers. They were all such nice people," said the 74-year-old, who moved to the U.S. from Poland as a young adult.
Something Sweet fell on tough times when its landlord forced the shop to close in 2011 for several months for building repairs. With no money coming in, the store lost its baker.
It managed to reopen at the end of 2011, but without a baker and selling a limited selection of goods.
"There is a real shortage of real bakers right now," Gryga acknowledged.
Around the same time as the city's Department of Health shut the store down in July — citing evidence of mice and flies, and a missing food protection certificate, according to The East Village Local — Kathy's husband and Gryga's father, Edward, suffered a series of strokes and the family dropped everything to care for him.
"It was profitable," said Gryga, who left Something Sweet intact with the hope of reopening. "We had a lot of locals and others you thought lived nearby because they came in all the time."
On Thursday morning, Gryga and her mother opened the bakery for a visit, and within minutes of rolling up it doors, former customers walking past came in to embrace Kathy.
"To me it was old Europe," said Anna, a customer of 40 years, who declined to provide her last name. "I always said when that [Something Sweet] closes, it's over for the East Village."
She recalled how sometimes the homeless would come in and Kathy would never turn them away empty-handed.
"I remember one man came in and didn't say a word. She just filled up a cup of coffee and gave him a cake. Then he left without saying anything," Anna said.
Another customer, John DeSanto, rode by on his bike and stopped in to say hello.
"We have been coming here for years," he said of his wife and daughter. "They are lovely people."
The family, who has been supporting themselves on savings, said they can only hold on to the shuttered Something Sweet storefront for a few more weeks without help.
"We need some qualified help and some initial startup money," Gryga admitted.
"We are pretty flexible. Really we just want to get it going again."
For those wanting to contact Something Sweet email TheEastVillageSpot@gmail.com