LOWER EAST SIDE — Cake Shop will soon boast a new glass storefront, a significantly upgraded menu, and an interior makeover evocative of its early days on the Ludlow strip as part of an extensive image reboot.
Brothers and business partners Nick and Andy Bodor decided to make some changes to the 11-year-old bar, coffee shop and music venue following a rough patch — the spot had seen a dip in business, while mounting anxiety about the price of rent left the brothers wondering whether they could stick it out.
“We were really, really on the fence, thinking, ‘Can we keep this going another 10 years?’” said Nick Bodor. “We were kind of tired and beat down — I’m not kid anymore, and I wasn’t sure if we could keep fighting.”
When a new landlord took over 152 Ludlow St. and offered them a 10-year lease at a rate they could afford — on top of a dramatic storefront renovation — the brothers took it as an opportunity for a fresh start.
Many of the changes are an effort to return to the shop’s indie roots. When the Cake Shop first opened in 2005, much of the sprawling first floor beyond the bar served as a record store, and a comfy seating area gave visitors a place to lounge while sipping a coffee or beer.
The Bodors eventually scrapped the vinyl shop and the sofas, and periodically cut short their original close time of 4 a.m. by two hours — a move they think may have led to a dwindling nighttime crowd.
“We felt like if we’re not making it, what are we doing wrong?” said Nick. “We thought maybe we had taken away a little of the personality and sterilized it a bit.”
As of next week, customers will be able to browse a small, curated vinyl collection from a pull-out shelf in front of the bar and lounge in a corner booth. Many of the steel tables and chairs currently sitting in the first floor will be moved to the venue space in the basement, where drinkers can chat over candlelight between shows.
The brothers will also begin offering an artisanal sandwich menu, which will be available all hours, day and night.
The whirlwind changes will culminate in a grand reopening tentatively scheduled for Thursday, May 5.
The goal is to return to the hybrid spot’s original DIY roots while also creating a welcoming communal space for locals of all stripes, said Nick — a space for old-timers who have been in the Lower East Side for decades as well as recent transplants in the ever-changing neighborhood.
“I always thought of bars as a place where you should be able to strike up a conversation with a stranger, but also be left alone if you want,” he said. “That’s a weird, intangible thing you can never put into a business plan.”