BROOKLYN — For years they've filled their bellies with its flaky croissants and delectable macarons, and now customers of Almondine are giving back to the beloved French bakery.
Loyal patrons of the patisserie with locations in DUMBO and Park Slope have raised more than $15,000 to help the struggling business get back on its feet in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
Both of Almondine's shops have been shuttered since the storm, which flooded the DUMBO bakery's basement to the ceiling, destroying all of Almondine's baking equipment.
The DUMBO bakery supplies all the goods sold at Almondine's Park Slope location on Ninth Street and Seventh Avenue, so that store has also been closed since Sandy — one of the few visible reminders of the hurricane in a neighborhood that was left largely unscathed by the storm.
As word spread of Almondine's plight, customers took action, forming a Friends of Almondine Facebook page and launching a Help Rebuild Almondine campaign on the online fundraising site Go Fund Me. Money raised on the site goes directly to Almondine owner Hervé Poussot.
Poussot said he's still not sure how much it will cost to get his bakery up and running again.
"Everything was underwater for 24 hours," he explained.
Progress has been slow. Hot water wasn't restored until Nov. 28, and electricity was switched on the week before that. So far his insurance company has declined to cover the damage, he said.
"Every day is a new battle," said Poussot, who is no stranger to hard work. His baking team cranks up Almondine's ovens every day at 2 a.m. to create the shop's award-winning breads and pastries.
Customers like Katherine Smith, a DUMBO resident who worked with the DUMBO Business Improvement District to start the Go Fund Me site, said the neighborhood has lost one of its most important business anchors.
Smith, whose husband is a big fan of Almondine's French country loaf, said the Water Street bakery has become an important fixture since opening in 2004. It's a go-to spot for parents treating children to cookies, local workers grabbing lunch, at-home cooks picking up a loaf of bread and tourists in search of "world-famous" pastries, Smith said. The pastry shop won New York Magazine's "Best Bakery" award in 2009.
Smith said the positive response to the online fundraising campaign is a reflection of Almondine's role in the neighborhood.
"It was a pioneer down here in terms of retail, and has become a neighborhood establishment," Smith said. "Everyone feels very attached to it, and it's loved and missed. I think that's why there's been such an outpouring of support."