Original Levain Bakery Will Reopen in Time for Marathon; ‘It’s the Bakery Where It All Began’

The flagship store.

By Carol Tannenhauser

On Saturday, November 6th at 8 a.m., the aroma of freshly baked cookies and other goodies will fill the air on Amsterdam Avenue and West 74th Street, when the original Levain Bakery reopens its doors after being closed by COVID for 19 months.

Levain is a local legend started in 1995 by friends Pam Weekes and Connie McDonald, who were training for a triathalon together and created their signature chocolate chip walnut cookie as a high-energy treat. From their 400-square-foot flagship shop they grew into a national business, acquired by a private equity firm in 2018. They now have eight locations, including one on Amsterdam between 76th and 77th Streets, only blocks from the original. The hope was that the second store would cut down on the infamous Levain lines. Here’s what it looked liked on Saturday.

Second UWS Levain location on Saturday afternoon.

Did these people know they could have stayed home and popped some frozen Levain cookies into their ovens? “The New York City bakery is the latest cult-favorite to get into retail,” Forbes announced in April, 2021, when Levain “started rolling out a ready-to-bake version of its iconic colossal cookie….” Now, they’re available in grocery stores nationwide.

These days, the focus is on making sure the flagship shop is shipshape. WSR emailed Weekes and McDonald to ask how things are going. They answered jointly.

WSR: Why reopen 74th Street when the other store is doing so well?

W&M: It’s connected to our heritage. It’s the bakery where it all began. We knew we wanted to reopen it as soon as we were able.

WSR: Anything new?

W&M: We took the opportunity while we were temporarily closed to update the bakery — something we had wanted to do for a long time. We updated some of our equipment, and added some cosmetic updates to the retail/ customer area. We started these updates over the summer and we’re finally ready to open.

WSR: Why November 6th?

W&M: Because the NYC marathon — an iconic NYC event, which also had to skip a year during COVID — will be run on November 7th. The energy around this citywide race is infectious. We created our original cookie while we were training for a triathlon, so athletic competitions, like the marathon, are meaningful to us and very much linked to our founding story. It’s also just a great weekend to celebrate NYC.

WSR: How does it feel to go from being a neighborhood bakery to a national business?

W&M: We’re incredibly proud of the growth we’ve experienced over the past few years. But, at the end of the day, all our bakeries are still very much connected to their respective neighborhoods. When you see our cookies in grocery stores around the country, our story is right there on the back of the box. It was all born from this UWS storefront. We started Levain because we loved to bake and fell in love with this tiny space and the neighborhood. We’ve made so many good friends along the way and we’re just so excited to welcome them all back next month.

The owners, who will be “working the counter” on opening day, also announced that “the first 200 Marathon runners to bring their bibs in [to the 74th Street store] will receive a complimentary Levain cookie of their choice. And they will be greeted by a new, hand-painted cityscape” — which may be what’s hiding behind the inviting blue bench and current sign.

Local pickup and delivery are available, as is nationwide shipping. For an explanation of how the cookies are kept fresh when shipped, click here.

FOOD, NEWS | 27 comments | permalink
    1. Curmudgeonly UWS reader says:

      Always been intrigued by this place since it’s so touristy and has such a cult following. Do they sell anything other than the notorious cookies? (Hardly hear about it if so…) Do people buy anything other than said cookies? (Never heard anyone mention it, if so)

      I’ve always felt that the term “bakery” seems a bit over-reaching for a place that seems to sell only one product and a place like Orwashers or Silver Moon merits the term bakery a bit more. But that’s just my 2c.

      • saradesel says:

        They do sell more than just cookies, which you might know if you’d ever walked by the bakery rather than just complaining about it on the internet.

      • Peter says:

        You have feelings and thoughts about whether a place that bakes cookies (and other things) should be called “bakery”, whether or not that definition of “bakery” (whatever that is) is fully met vs. other places that bake cookies (and other things), and to what extent the ratio of cookie-baking vs. general baking determines the appropriateness of the term “bakery”?

        I can’t wait to hear more.

      • Danielle Remp says:

        You are a wordsmith, and I empathize with you.
        It’s “worrisome” (not “worrying”) to me, for instance, how “sneaked” became “snuck” and why “face masks” are not simply “masks” or “protective mask”. Are there “knee masks” and “elbow masks”?

        • Larry K says:

          There are definitely the chin masks one sees while walking the streets. Do chins have pores to breathe through? LMAO

    2. Shirley Ariker says:

      What about the store on Frederick Douglass at 116?

    3. Jay says:

      Will the store have a line minder out on the sidewalk for every single hour the shop is open on Wed, Thurs, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and any holiday weeks?

      If not, they should probably reconsider re-opening this location since starting back as early as 2010, there were huge really rude lines of customers waiting on the northern W74th sidewalk as if it were a strip mall’s “sidewalk” outside a movie theatre.

      And the shop largely ignored request that they keep the customers lined up single file to the east on West 74th.

      Customer from the first week the shop opened.

      • Rosie says:

        Thank you. I live on this street and there are many of us who can’t stand this “neighbor”. I have had the rudest people in line tell me to “f- off, walk on the other side of the street” etc. When I would politely say, “excuse me, I need to get home”, as I carried groceries etc. Another resident of our street was shoved and tripped into the street. Residents of the street really have very negative feelings and experiences with this business. We ask them to be respective and responsible neighbors.

      • Suzanne says:

        Thank you. I too live on this block and am NOT looking forward to Levain’s reopening. It is a real bear trying to walk down the street with groceries or my dog.

    4. js says:

      A Modest Proposal:

      For places like Levain that opened years ago, that were truly neighborhood spots…
      How about priority for residents?
      (non-priority for tourists LOL)

      Instead of marathon runners getting a free cookie, how about giving to long-time loyal West Side customers?

      • rteplow says:

        Seriously, js?! You don’t think someone who has just run 26.2 miles might have earned a free cookie? Do you know that Levain’s owners were triathletes and they came up with the cookies as a good way to sustain them while competing?

        • js says:

          Hi rteplow
          A Modest Proposal is a satirical reference.
          Check out Jonathan Swift.

          On the other hand perhaps worth considering that there are communities that acknowledge regular neighbors and residents…?

          • rteplow says:

            js, quite chagrined that I missed the Modest Proposal reference. In my defense, I didn’t think Levain would be a candidate for that treatment, unlike, say, that store that sold only mustard.

            And normally I am with you on longtime residents, who stuck it out during the high-crime, barely gentrified 1970s and 80s. I’ve been here since the end of the 70s.

      • Peter says:

        Fully agree. With all the dislocations, however, we need to make sure things are tight on the resident vs. non-resident front. I propose they hire a “Cookie Cop” to check credentials at the door, and the following requirements:
        – 2 government-issued IDs showing address (NY needs to be the new Enhanced or Real ID)
        – All 3 credit agency reports showing historical address changes
        – A notarized utility bill
        – Proof that you have spent at least 181 days in NYC last year – notarized cell-phone tower records (if you have children, also need school verification letter signed by the principal)

        If all is solid, then you get a cookie.

    5. crazy4 Levain says:

      Been eating their goodies for years.
      Actually, the best thing there (on 74th street) is the hot baguette smeared with
      the delicious jam.
      Can’t have enough. Ever.
      One of the reasons there’s nothing like the Upper West Side.

    6. From the first time I tasted LeVain Bakery cookies, I’ve been hooked. On my way to Bulgaria, I once took a bus (not a taxi or an Uber) from the airport, stood in line, bought cookies to gift my foreign friends, boarded the bus again for my flight, and (most of) the cookies made it to Bulgaria. So delicious! So grateful!

    7. Marci says:

      The cookies are really good, but the Pissaladière is what gets us to go there. And the baguette someone else mentioned is terrific.

    8. noLineForMe says:

      I went there a couple times before it was famous and the cookie was good but overwhelming. Like eating 10 cookies. I certainty wouldn’t wait in line for one. Same thing for Carolus in Hoboken. Before he was on TV there was never anybody in the store. Once he became a media star the line went down to the PATH.

    9. Frank Grimes says:

      I sure wish people would stop mentioning the baguette…I thought that was my little secret. You all can have the overrated cookies, that baguette is simple and fabulous. No one tell the tourists!

    10. Darwin says:

      I was working at Phoenix House, across from Levain, when the first tiny storefront opened. They sold amazing sandwiches, bread, pain au chocolat, & those crazy cookies, among other things. It was our little secret for a while, then BOOM!

    11. Susan says:

      Best cookies ever! To anyone who has not tried these … you will soon agree!

    12. Diana Korsh says:

      How about making some vegan cookies?

    13. cma says:

      Also make and cut chunk slices of banana bread, cinnamon swirl, chocolate swirl; oatmeal and dark chocolate chip cookies, scones, etc, and various breads. Best is walking out of there and getting home with just out of the oven melting chocolate chip cookie. Yum. Welcome back. Did not know could buy frozen,?where? may not be same effect.

    14. Thank You for the Joy et Bliss LEVAIN adds to NoHo
      neighborhood… Not only are your cookies, et other
      baked goods are delicious – the Service is Superior.

    15. Anonymous says:

      Very easy to skip the line all together if you order on line and pick up in store! Love levain! They’re the best cookies I’ve ever had and they crush the insomnia/ chip competition. Not that those places have bad cookies, but they don’t have sh*t on levain.

      Glad they’re reopening the original