A classic Bay Ridge bakery is being reborn.
While the neighborhood has recently seen a rash of store closures, one that is definitely staying open, and retooling for the future, is one of the neighborhood’s most beloved mom and pop shops, now known as the Mid-East Bakery and Grocery, at 7808 Third Avenue.
The bakery has been a staple in the community since 1976, serving some of the most sought after bread in Brooklyn.
Taking over the shop are Tony and Marie Aflak, with their sons Alex and Thomas. Marie is the daughter of original owners Antoine and Frangie Tabet.
Her parents were contemplating closing the store last December. Both had worked hard over the years and were looking forward to retirement. Marie’s brother Michael, who had been managing the shop for 17 years, had accepted a job opportunity in New Jersey and could no longer oversee the bakery.
“Dad came here in 1970 from a small town in northern Lebanon where the Cedars grow and worked at Damascus Bakery,” Marie told this paper. “After six years of working there, he had the opportunity to open this store. He had a cousin of his help him out and it’s just been a family business since then.”
When her parents made the decision to close up shop, Tony and Marie expressed their desire to take over the business.
Marie had learned to cook all kinds of Middle Eastern specialties from her mother and works as a chef at Xaverian High School. She had also opened her own shop, Grapevine, a few years ago.
“When my parents decided to retire, we decided not to let the legacy of 43 years close down, because that was an option,” Marie said. “My brother decided in October that they’d be closing at the end of the year, so Tony and I approached my mom and dad with our desire for the store to continue.”
And that it will, but under the Aflaks, the bakery’s popular pita bread will be available all day, said Tony.
In the past, it would usually sell out by 11:30 a.m.
In fact, Marie’s father — a fixture at the bakery who could always be found sitting in a chair by the store’s entrance — was known to ration bread in favor of his regular customers.
“It’s very important for us that the people know that the bread is available in any quantity that they need all day long,” Tony added. “If customers want 10 dozen, they can have 10 dozen. There will be no more rationing.”
But, the changes at the Mid-East Bakery are not just about availability. Tony promised that there will be some welcome new additions to the store’s menu. Along with meat pies, spinach pies, hummus and some of the best tabbouleh in the borough, Tony and Marie will be introducing gluten-free and vegan items along with prepared foods and more groceries for self-serve grab and go.
In addition, the couple said, “We’re also going to be wholesaling our bread and servicing restaurants. We’re already servicing Tanoreen (7523 Third Avenue), one of the best restaurants around. We will be expanding and hoping to wholesale our items into the city and New Jersey.”
Marie is proud of her parents’ legacy and hopes her children will carry on the family tradition. She also shared that they will be in the store occasionally to greet their old customers and help out.
“We were blessed to be given the life we’ve had because of my parents’ hard work,” she told this paper. “My father came to this country with $50 in his pocket. He opened a business, sent his four kids to good schools and stayed in one neighborhood. That was his version of the American Dream.”