Written by Doug Finlay Wednesday, 02 October 2013 00:00
The “New Levittown Park Bake Shop,” on Wantagh Avenue, changed its sign for the first time in 50 years, throwing out the ‘new’ and bringing in the new. Adding delightful intrigue to the change, it offers a slew of new offerings the owners hope can draw a new generation of sweet- toothed aficionados, and will ship its items around the country.
A fixture in the community for 50 years with an avid following, the New Levittown Park Bake Shop was purchased in September 2012 by cousins Helen Kyrillidis and Tanya Salagiannis from the family-owned business of bakers known in the neighborhood as Karen and Marty. Charlie Johnson, a baker for the shop since Karen’s father Karl owned it with a partner named Henry, told this newspaper Karl’s daughter Karen bought the business from her father in 1984. Karl started the Levittown Park Bake Shop with partner Henry in the early 1960s – naming it after a small open field or ‘park’ next to it - and went around solo 1964 when Henry left. Under new management, Karl renamed it the New Levittown Park Bake Shop.
The “New” name had stuck ever since – until Aug. 16, that is, when the sign was taken down because the landlord who owns the building the bakery is in gave a facelift to all the business store fronts. The bakery partners decided that, if the historical sign had to come down, they would rename the bakery the Sweet Surrender Bake House – adding the New Levittown Park Bake Shop into the mix for good measure.
Aware the neon sign had historic significance within the neighborhood, Kyrillidis, who lives in Fresh Meadows, told the Levittown Tribune she called the Levittown Historical Society several times to offer the sign in hopes of having it archived for historical purposes. But the society did not respond to her calls. An email also went out to a historical member that was not returned.
“This is an established and well-liked bakery,” remarked Kyrillidis of her decision to buy the bakery. “It’s one of the reasons we bought it.” She recognized the community as well-knit with a broad base of support. She also liked the unassuming aspect of the building, which she said often belies a quality within. “Home appeal means quality.”
The other reason to buy, of course, is the product. “This was only the second bakery we looked at before we knew we had found the one,” she continued.
She and her cousin walked in to the bakery one day incognito and bought up as many cakes, cookies and pastries as they could carry, took them to their friends and feasted on the items, recognizing then the quality of the products. The cousins also tasted sweets, breads and other goodies from other bakeries in Levittown to compare, concluding the items at the New Levittown Park Bake Shop were the basis for solid business decision to buy.
The vision in purchasing the bakery is simple, Kyrillidis said: to modernize it without affecting its long-standing reputation and appeal. “With a little TLC we knew we could bring it back,” she remarked.
“Are those your jelly doughnuts? Best in the world,” commented Joan Lynch of Levittown on the bakery’s Facebook page.
"The jelly doughnuts are a well-established item," as are Boston crème doughnuts, crumb buns, rainbow cookies, blueberry turnovers and several breads, such as rye and Italian to name a few, said Kyrillidis.
What makes for a good, sought-after jelly doughnut?
“Usually, when biting into a jelly doughnut you have to take three or four bites to reach the jelly. But with ours you get the jelly on the first bite and it stays until the end.” Kryillidis said the shop spares nothing to make sure the raspberry-based jelly doughnut remains adequately filled.
With a vision to take the bakery to the next level - to “kick it up a notch” as legendary chef Emeril Legasse would say, the partners knew they had to bring fresh ideas, tastes and products to bear.
Salaginnis of Bayside, the baker, was schooled in at the Culinary Academy in Syosset (now the Star Academy), and mentored under renowned pastry chef John Iuzzini at two Trump Hotel restaurants, Jean George and Nougatina, as pastry cook. Iuzzini has also appeared as a judge in Bravo’s Top Chef TV program. She has also been executive pastry chef at Za Café in Manhattan.
Salagiannis’s dream was to one day own her own bakeshop – and that dream has come true. “I am the executive chef who devises the new pastries. There are seven bakers who work on different aspects of baking,” she said. Along with
Johnson, there is another baker who has been there since the bakery’s earliest days.
Kyrlillidis is the business manager to Salaginannis’s confectionary acumen. “I was an insurance broker who wanted a change from what I had been doing,” said Kyrillidis. She said they brainstormed on whether to start a new bakery from the beginning, or buy an established bakery and modernize it. They apparently chose well.
New to the shop, which celebrated its one-year anniversary recently, are fruit tarts; several varieties of new flavored cupcakes; strawberry jelly-crème doughnuts; everything rolls with poppy, sesame, salt and onion on top; red velvet cake; lemon-raspberry meringue pie; and an added assortment of breads such as cranberry-walnut, raisin pecan and semolina bread. The shop continues to make cakes for custom orders.
Salagiannis said the bakery is working with a shipping company to ship ‘nonperishable’ products such as breads and cakes to former Levittown residents around the country who still remember the bakery. Visit the Sweet Surrender Bake House Facebook page to inquire. Or call the shop at 516-731-2424.
Meanwhile, some Levittowners such as Nick Cee and Sarah Moore, among others, have quietly removed the neon lettering and other artifacts from the downed sign as a means to archive a bit of Levittown history.
Saturday, 26 July 2014 00:00
A clown named Renaldo performed magic tricks for an enthusiastic audience as part of the National Circus Project, which visited Levittown Public Library on Wednesday, July 16.
All 150 tickets available for the performance were sold out in this interactive magic show for children. Throughout the entire circus act, children laughed and raised their hands as high as they could to be chosen as one of Renaldo’s helpers.
Raising her hand to participate was three-year-old Kirsten Cantwell from Seaford. “She was upset that she didn’t get picked,” said her mother Melissa Cantwell.
Kirsten Cantwell goes to any activity offered at the library, and is starting to enjoy watching magic shows. According to her mother, she really enjoyed the performance.
In the circus show, National Circus Project performer, Al Calienes, acted as Renaldo the clown.
“The show has different components of acts in the circus,” explained Calienes. “We teach children circus moves.”
With the National Circus Project, children get to see magic tricks performed live. “We infuse enthusiasm by showing them, and they in turn will be able to repeat the process,” said Calienes.
Renaldo performed plate spinning, where he spun a plate on a stick and passed it along to the stick of one of his helpers from the audience, who then passed the plate down a line of three more helpers. This interactive way of teaching the children magic tricks really allows them to absorb what they are learning.
The National Circus Project travels and performs for elementary schools, as well as middle and high schools. When the National Circus Project is not going to schools, they perform at library shows, summer camps, and other types of events.
The performance entertains the adults as well as the children. “We involve everybody,” said Calienes. “Everybody’s engaged on some level or another. “
At every library performance, Calienes donates the children’s book he wrote and illustrated Renaldo Joins the Circus to the library. He feels that he owes a lot to the library system. “Anything that ever meant anything to me I learned in the library,” said Calienes.
Calienes learned how to draw from the library, which is how he became a commercial artist. One of the main characters he would always draw would be Renaldo the clown. “I wanted to make him real so I joined the circus,” he said.
Calienes has been performing with the National Circus Project for seven years and has been in the circus business going on 26 years.
The National Circus Project brings magic to children at any school, camp or library all over Long Island as well as across the country.
Friday, 25 July 2014 00:00
Last June, Nassau County passed legislation that allows for the deployment of a speed enforcement camera system in school zones for each of the 56 public school districts in the county.
The new systems will be implemented throughout the county on July 25, and will be operational on scheduled school days throughout the year.
Thursday, 24 July 2014 00:00
Levittown’s Division Avenue High School varsity baseball team, under the direction of coach Tom Tuttle, won the Class A County Championship, garnering a third-place ranking in New York State. This is the team’s 13th county championship win and the second county championship for the school in the past four years.
In addition, senior Chris Reilly was named Championship MVP for throwing a complete game shutout in game two and going three for four with two RBIs.
Thursday, 24 July 2014 00:00
Taylor Traenkle, a junior at Division Avenue High School recently received the MVP award for the Nassau County Varsity Hockey League Association.
Traenkle, who plays no. 9 for the Levittown Ice Falcons, led the way averaging 2.8 points a game with a total of 25 goals and 23 assists in just 17 games.