When Phoebe Pinchbeck started putting fresh, organic products onto her family’s Brooklyn bakery shelves, her family’s pastrami-slathered fortune cookies became a weekly obsession.
Now, more than 40 years later, the small family bakery is undergoing a transformation.
Sideshow Bakeshop is now a cooperative: all five bakers are employed full-time, and the operation is owned by families who buy bread and pastries from the bakery instead of just buying it from elsewhere. Each cake is hand-decorated with colorful wrapping paper, and each slice sold comes with a gift voucher. But the name of the collective — The Pretty Perfect Corners of Brooklyn — speaks to the weird, offbeat, and quirky thing that is about to happen to bakers everywhere: radical revitalization.
The Brooklyn Collective is a first for a food cooperative: bakers are being not just encouraged to buy from each other, but to buy in bulk. Bakers, like other workers, can switch jobs and move into a management role; the collective sells into over 200 locations all across the boroughs. The ideal candidate for a bakers’ job is not someone from another city — it’s someone from Brooklyn, Ms. Pinchbeck said.
“It’s a huge community, and the quality of life around the bakery is great,” she said. “Even when you go to Philly or LA, you don’t see as many people in support of small businesses. I think the difference here is that small businesspeople are community members and know what it’s like to deal with the community day to day.”
“We’re not here to replace any union. We’re not here to displace any company,” she said. “But if you have a business that is carrying 100 percent New York baking and culture, and is going from having 5 to 6 employees to 50 to 70 to 120, that’s not an issue.”
That’s why she had to bring in the expertise of Francois Poutini, a longtime restaurateur and co-founder of Square One, a design and development company focused on the region.
Now, Ms. Pinchbeck designs a new image for her business: a chic, funky community with a scavenger hunt selling special-edition cakes.