Volume 81, Number 9 | July 28 - August 3, 2011
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

File photo

Ted Kefalinos working in his pastry shop in February 2009 as the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense protested outside. A few weeks earlier, Kefalinos, who supported John McCain for president, had created an offensive “Drunken Negro Head” cookie for Barack Obama’s inauguration.

Controversial cookie baker gone — or just on vacation?

By Bonnie Rosenstock

Ted Kefalinos is closing up shop for good. Or not. “Last day” is what the sign in the window of his Lafayette French Pastry shop said on Mon., July 25. But the contrary Kefalinos, who became notorious for his “Drunken Negro Face” cookie to “commemorate” President Barack Obama’s inauguration, said, “Maybe it’s the last day, maybe it’s a vacation.” In any case, he will be gone until September.

Kefalinos owes two months’ back rent.

“If the marshals close it while I’m gone...it’s up to the landlord if we can negotiate it,” he said.

He is off to Greece to see his mother on his home island of Zakynthos, and to Miami to visit with his sister.

“There might be an opportunity there,” he mused. He also said he would talk to relatives about borrowing some money.

“Maybe things will pick up. It will be another year under my belt past people’s stupid thinking,” he said, referring to his notoriety over the chocolate cookie with splotchy red eyes and garishly distorted features. Not that he is repentant. “It gave me free publicity all over the world,” he said. “I got a call from Albany a few weeks ago from a man, who identified himself as half-black, and he thought it was hysterical and wanted to order a dozen.”

The bakery, at 26 Greenwich Ave., west of Sixth Ave. near 10th St., has been at this location for 12 years. For the last 20 years, Kefalinos has been on his own in a business that was founded by his godfather, then taken over by his father and then by some “a--hole,” as he put it, at the original Bleecker St. site. Kefalinos makes everything himself, a round-the-clock, labor-intensive job.

“See my legs, how red they are from standing,” he offered. “My hands are…,” he started to say, looking down at his doughy, thick, overworked hands.

Business has been way off these last few years.

“Many shops in the area are closing,” he noted. “It isn’t going to change. It’s already too late.” It may be a combination of people being out of work and the closing of nearby St. Vincent’s Hospital, he suggested. “We rely on a service economy, and they knocked down all the manufacturing buildings in the neighborhood.” Then again, in his case, it might just be about the cookie.

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