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Beloved Carrot Top Bakery May Move to New Jersey After Lease Negotiations Breaks Down

By DNAinfo Staff on June 24, 2010 5:50pm

By Yepoka Yeebo

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — After 25 years of churning out carrot cakes, the Carrot Top Pastries bakery may have to relocate their main headquarters to New Jersey after a standoff in lease negotiations with their landlord.

Owner Renee Mancino said relations with landlord New York Presbyterian Hospital have ground to a halt with just weeks left on their lease, the victim of rent hikes and possible demolition plans in the future.

"We tried to renew our lease early, and we're going through difficult negotiations," Mancino, 61, told DNAinfo.

Mancino said New York Presbyterian gave Carrot Top a favorable 25-year-lease to encourage the business to bring a second location of their popular storefronts to Washington Heights. Carrot Top's original location is still operating in Inwood, but the majority of baking takes place at the Washington Heights location.

"Those kind of leases are unheard of now," Mancino said. "When we came here, all there was was apartment buildings and drugs."

"There were none of these beautiful restaurants that exist here now," she added.

But Mancino said the hospital's renewal lease for when the bakery's current term concludes at the end of the month leaves much to be desired.

She said the hospital offered her a five-year lease, at a monthly rent of around $15,000 a month, triple her current rent of $5,000 a month.

Mancino said she intended to spend $250,000 renovating the bakery's interior, but fears the hospital could tear the entire building down at the end of the lease, in which case she said she would lose the majority of her investment.

Representatives of Phipps Houses, who manage leasing for New York Presbyterian, did not respond to several requests for comment.

Among the customers the owner claims have sampled her baked wares are the former King of Spain, Desmond Tutu, Stevie Wonder and Richard Pryor.

Mancino was headed to medical school at Columbia University until she was hurt in a car crash that left her disfigured and with short-term memory problems. She started baking carrot cakes in her tiny kitchen to put her daughter through private school until her husband, former NYPD officer Robert Mancino, built the bakery in Inwood.

Locals were alarmed by the news that Washington Heights could lose Carrot Top.

"I'm here every morning," said Ceasar Bensome, a taxi driver from the Dominican Republic who stopped by the bakery for lunch.

""If I don't drink their coffee, I can't work."