By Jon Schuppe
HARLEM — Levain Bakery, the popular Upper West Side maker of what some call the city’s best cookies, is joining the food-and-drink boom on Harlem’s Frederick Douglass Boulevard.
Construction is underway on an approximately 3,200-square-foot sized space between West 116th and West 117th Street that will become Levain’s headquarters, co-owner Connie McDonald said Tuesday.
"We’re really excited about Frederick Douglass Boulevard and about Harlem in general," McDonald said during a short break at Levain’s original 400-square-foot shop on West 74th Street. "There is so much potential there."
The Harlem location is expected to open by Thanksgiving.
The website Park+5th first noted the impending move in March, but details did not emerge until construction permits appeared in the window of the former Tribal Spears Gallery & Cafe several weeks ago. The blog Harlem Bespoke reported last week that the Levain name appeared on city permits for the site.
Frederick Douglass Boulevard has transformed dramatically since a 2003 rezoning allowed more condominium towers and retailers. Between West 125th Street and West 110th Street, nearly every block has at least one new restaurant or bar.
McDonald said she and her business partner, Pam Weekes, were attracted to Frederick Douglass Boulevard by the relatively low cost of occupying a large space there. But there was also the promise of a short commute: McDonald recently moved into a new apartment building nearby.
The larger space in Harlem will allow Levain Bakery to increase production while maintaining its small storefront appeal, McDonald said.
The West 74th Street bakery, which Levain has occupied since 1995, will remain open, McDonald said.
Levain also has an outpost in East Hampton on Long Island.
Levain will be taking over the former Tribal Spears Gallery & Café. On Tuesday, work crews were tearing up the floor of what will become a street-level bakery and coffee bar, with an open kitchen in back. In the basement will be offices where Levain will handle online orders.
McDonald and Weekes founded Levain after meeting during training for the Ironman triathlon and came up with their first chocolate chip cookie recipe.