By Joe Anuta
City officials were skewered over the response to the Dec. 26 blizzard at a hearing in Queens Friday, but amid all the bad news in the wake of the storm, there was at least one untold success story involving a legendary Ridgewood bakery.
Grimaldi’s Home of Bread, a fixture in the neighborhood, nearly had to take a hiatus in the wake of the blizzard, which would have deprived residents of the shop’s coveted loaves. But luckily, City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), who has eaten Grimaldi’s bread since childhood, stepped in to keep the ovens baking.
“Anybody who lives in the community knows the bakery and knows they are part of Ridgewood,” Crowley said. “It would have affected a lot of people.”
The trouble started when heavy snows accumulated on the roads Sunday night, according to Crowley. And the truck that normally delivers the flour could not make it down the road leading to the bakery after Sunday night, which left the bakery at 21-01 Menahan St. with a limited supply of the precious grain.
First, John Quinterno, a manager at the store, said he tried to convince the city Sanitation Department to clear the road, but the department was stretched to the brink.
“They were all jammed up,” he said. “There were only so many plows.”
By Wednesday, three days after the storm, the shop was in danger of kneading its last dough, according to Crowley.
“They were very frustrated and they were almost at the point where they had to close shop,” she said. “They reached the breaking point on Wednesday.”
After repeated calls, Crowley said she was finally able to convince sanitation to plow the street.
“I’m glad that our persistence prevailed,” she said. “This could have been an even worse situation for the community that depends on the goods that come from the bakery.”
That is because several bakeries used to serve the neighborhood, according to Quinterno, but since Grimaldi’s opened in 1959, it has been the only one to survive.
“We are the largest hearth bakery in Queens County,” he said. “And we are one of the few manufacturing businesses left in the area.”
Which is exactly why Crowley had more than delicious pastries on her mind when she made the call to the city’s strongest. She said that about 150 people work at the bakery, and she did not want them to lose any pay.
The employees not only provide Ridgewood with bread and flaky wares, but baked goods are shipped from the Menahan location throughout the five boroughs and the entire tri-state area, according to Quinterno.
Grimaldi’s has been in the bread and pizza business for more than a century, when Vito Grimaldi opened the first store in Brooklyn in 1909.
But Quinterno downplayed the bread scare following the storm.
“There was no glory, no drama,” he said. “They kept the streets open enough for us to get flour, so we kept baking.”
Although Crowley said she was happy to help Grimaldi’s, there were many other incidents following the storm that did not have a happy ending.
“In those days after the storm, we were inundated with people who needed help. We had emergency situations where people needed care,” she said. “Some people’s lives were lost.”
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4566.