New System Bakery, a Hampden institution famous for its raisin bread and other old-fashioned treats, has closed its doors, but will reopen soon under new ownership.
Yesterday, the operators of Sam's Bagels stores in the area said they have acquired the New System Bakery from Grace and Bernard Breighner, and are taking steps to reopen it under the same name early next month.
David Knox, who took over the bakery two years ago, said he was forced to go out of business last week after falling behind on the rent. The sign outside the storefront reads "Temporarily Closed."
A collective sigh could be heard all over West 36th Street after news of the reopening spread.
"I need my chocolate buns," said Denise Whiting, owner of Cafe Hon down the street.
Philip Gallant and his brother Allan operate nine Sam's Bagels shops, mostly in North Baltimore.
Philip Gallant said the new shop would be a combination of a bakery and a bagel shop. It will continue to use New System's secret recipes, he said.
"We just plan to bring back the old qualities of New System," said Gallant. "We will also feature Sam's bagels. But we're going to go back to the old classics."
Mrs. Breighner said, "I would like to see the tradition of an old-fashioned bakery remain in Hampden."
Some of the old bakery's employees will stay on under the new ownership.
"The bakers and decorators will be the same," Gallant said. Unlike Knox, who closed the bakery on Sundays, he said he plans to keep the establishment open on Sundays, a popular day for bakery traffic.
If the recipes remain true to the original, the 75-year-old institution could have a fresh breath of life. Robert Leard, 58, a lifelong resident of Hampden, was dismayed when he observed the empty bakery yesterday during the filming of a John Waters movie.
"Nothing's the same," he said. "It's not hometown anymore."
Leard went on to recall his childhood memories of New System. "My aunts, uncles patronized it all the time, especially the buns and bologna for cards on Saturday night," he said.
In Leard's opinion, the reason why it recently fell on hard times was that the bakery under Knox's management "changed the original recipes."
"Nothing tasted the same," he said. "If it had, the people of Hampden would have patronized it."
Gallant said he and his brother plan to retain the old flavor of the bakery because of the value of its name and reputation. And, he said, "We've always made a commitment to neighborhoods."
He refused to disclose the price they agreed to pay for New System.
Sandra Sparks of the Greater Homewood Community Corp. expressed enthusiasm for the plan.
"The idea is that people love New System, and they want to keep it going," she said. "It's going to be reborn," she said. "This is just what a main street needs."