Volume 80, Number 10 | August 5 - 11, 2010
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
This one hurts in my Sweet Heart
By Kathryn Adisman
I just found out a beloved neighborhood haunt, Sweet Heart Bakery, is closed for good. Which isn’t good.
There was a false alarm in 2008 when it was one of four storefronts boarded up on Eighth Ave. between 13th and 14th Sts. People grieved to think their old Sweet Heart was gone forever.
It reopened four months later — with a polished facade and HDTV, but otherwise unchanged — to a lot of sweet-toothed smiles.
The place was a throwback, in price and ambience, owned by a pair of Argentine guys, offering amazing empanada and coffee specials and Technicolor desserts, like the gigantic red velvet cupcakes with white icing, piled high on trays in the window. (Magnolia, eat your heart out!) I was a fan of the sugar-free blueberry muffins and café con leche. But the real treat was the chance to linger for hours undisturbed at one of five small tables — Wi-Fi-free.
This is where I’d go to write longhand in a lined spiral notebook. I saw myself as a 19th-century diarist, faithfully recording the exploits of my fictional heroine, whose midday trysts with a local shop owner seem to lend poignancy to the loss. Sweet Heart, aptly named, took on the protective aura of “Patron of the Arts.”
And this is where, in the early days of the Democratic primaries, I’d had that spirited political conversation with Rebecca, an avowed lesbian, bonding over Hillary. It offered a haven for locals, proximity to 14th St., a link to a Hispanic past — community.
“It was my own special place,” lamented Rebecca, back in ’08, echoing the feeling of many of us. Now she doesn’t have a place. Starbucks is not the same.
Sweet Heart had been closed about two weeks when I found out last Saturday. I was told there was a sign in the window thanking patrons. Now the window is covered in brown paper, nothing there. I suspect they were no longer wanted by the landlord — the whole building has gone upscale.
The woman who told me about it, Tony — a former Village resident stopping by La Bonbonniere diner after her HB Studio acting class — searched for the right words to describe what this no-frills hole in the wall, meant: “A common place? Common space? Common ground?”
As neighborhood places keep disappearing, so does the language to describe them. It leaves a hole, not just in the landscape, but in the culture.