Bakery masters and all-around decent human beings Erin Patinkin and Agatha Kulaga take another step forward today in their quest to spread delicious treats and boundless joy to all corners of New York City with the opening of their fourth Ovenly bakeshop, a cute little sliver of a spot in Williamsburg on North 5th near Kent.
The new Williamsburg space joins the mothership in Greenpoint, the stand in Vanderbilt Market near Grand Central, and the relatively spacious cafe in Park Slope on Flatbush, and will have plenty of everything that makes Ovenly one of the best overall bakeries in town: cookies (including the shockingly gluten-free Peanut Butter and the “secretly vegan” Chocolate Chip), cakes, shortbreads, brownies and bars, croissants and savory sandwiches, scones, quiches, and coffee via Joe.
Two important things to know: Patinkin and Kulaga will be debuting a brand new “mystery” cookie this Saturday, March 3, at the grand opening here in Williamsburg; and on Thursdays all month the bakery will roll out Sugar Rush Hour from 4:30pm to 6:30pm, with free sweets for all comers. First up, on March 8, they’ll be giving away slices of Ovenly’s deliriously rich Brooklyn Blackout, a dense, black chocolate stout cake layered with salted, gooey, dark chocolate pudding buttercream.
Bringing us consistently delicious pastries are one thing, but Patinkin and Kulaga are also passionate about the social impact their burgeoning empire can have on both individual employees and the larger food industry. We had a chance to talk briefly with the co-founders at their new shop yesterday afternoon.
Agatha Kulaga: We have open-hiring practices at Ovenly, and that means that you can apply for a job and be hired without having a resume or even a history of employment. We don’t discriminate against people based on their past job experience, or their educational background, and as a result, about 35 percent of our employees (out of more than 60 employees) are either formerly incarcerated or are political refugees.
We know you’re very ambitious in terms of expanding your business, but how does that voracious growth fit in with your desire for doing good.
Erin Patinkin: We want to create joy wherever we go, for our employees and for our customers, so by building these neighborhood bakeries, and providing jobs with strong benefits everywhere we land, we hope to create a more “empathetic economy” throughout the city. And really what we mean by that is just being radically responsible in the way that we conduct every aspect of our business.
Kulaga: And we’re also always looking to help build people’s careers, so when employees start with Ovenly we really see it as an opportunity to discover and hone their strengths and skills for the longterm, whether that means with us here or wherever they move onto next.
Patinkin: I think that the #MeToo movement is very important because we’re finally shining the light on what has long been known within the food industry, but rarely discussed. And it’s not just about male leadership, it’s about any sort of leadership that condones or doesn’t protect against harmful behavior. I think what we really see happening is that here’s a real, rare opportunity for us to educate people and show people that we can all do business better together. And if you’re a conscious consumer and you’re concerned about where you’re food comes from, take a look at how we’re doing business, and come buy your cookies from us.
Kulaga: And we really believe that we are setting the example for other businesses, and we want to be able to share our resources and share the way that we work with anyone who wants to talk.