A look into the future of the historic bakery
It wasn’t long ago that rumors began circling on social media that the beloved Somerville business, Lyndell’s Bakery, would be closing, facing demolition. Owner Bill Galatis said that this is very much not the case; that in fact, the property is being redeveloped, but Lyndell’s will temporarily relocate and eventually move back to an upgraded space. Somerville Wire spoke with Galatis and we’re including the transcript of the interview right here, so that you can learn all about what’s happening at Lyndell’s.
When and why is the landlord planning to redevelop the property?
I don’t know the when. The why, I would surmise, that our landlord approached me a little over a year ago and said that he and his family are considering redeveloping the building. We have a very, very good relationship with each other, and he committed to me then, as he committed to me recently, after the social media barrage, that the goal is to redevelop the property, if he receives all the proper and necessary approvals. The bakery would be the anchor retail in the retail space that gets redeveloped. There are no specific plans at this point, but the landlord did reach out to me, and he did say that he was going to file for a demolition permit. And that’s what triggered all the social media traffic. … Ultimately, it will be a very good move for the bakery and Ball Square. The building is very old, and we’d thought about renovating a few years ago. But then when Joe talked to me about redeveloping the property, we put those plans on hold.
Where will Lyndell’s be moving to when this happens?
Your guess is as good as mine! All I know is that we will not go out of business. So there’s a number of location options that we want to pursue. The priority is to try to relocate in the Square somewhere. And the other possibility we have is that in our industry, generally speaking, competitors help each other out. If we’re looking for a location that doesn’t have enough space or the required utilities, we could ask fellow bakeries to co-pack for us, which means we would provide them with our recipes, and they would produce product for us, and we would just ship it to the retail store. Clearly that’s all on a temporary basis, until the new space is finished.
Will you be moving back to an upgraded bakery when this is done? What will that be like?
Because the bakery’s been in business 135 years, and because all of our customers love that retro look—it’s an old and tired retro look, so the plan would be to hire an architect and to upgrade and improve the retro look. We understand how important it is to our customers, and there are a number of things we could do to upgrade and improve a retro look. I read a couple of the remarks on social media, and some people have asked us to keep the sign that’s on top of the roof. One of the things we might do is take the sign down and put it in a wall inside the bakery and backlight it. … We’ve got some pieces of equipment that could certainly be replaced and will be replaced. And possibly, [we’ll] create some more seating, inside the bakery.
Could you tell us a bit about Lyndell’s history in the community? What have you liked about being part of Ball Square?
I’m the fourth owner in 135 years. The bakery is iconic. I always tell people that I have fiduciary responsibility to keep this iconic bakery going, which we plan on doing. We believe in giving back to the community, and we do whatever we can to give back. We quietly give back unsold product to local nonprofits, including Boston University students that turn around and feed the homeless. We also give unsold product to local Somerville nonprofits, for example, the Sisters of the Poor, when they were operating on Highland Avenue, and the Greek Orthodox Church on Central Street. And then the other thing we started in 2014, the year after the Marathon Bombings—when Sean Collier lost his life in 2013, he was on the Somerville auxiliary police force. We, as a family, decided that we wanted to do something to keep Sean Collier’s memory alive. Every weekend, beginning in 2014, we have a fundraiser in memory of Sean Collier. So we raise money, and the proceeds go to the Somerville Scholarship Fund, and it goes specifically to Somerville High School graduating seniors who decide to pursue a law enforcement career. Since 2014, we’ve raised over $50,000 that we’ve turned over to the Somerville Scholarship Fund. I made a commitment a couple of years ago that we would continue this until we reached the $100,000 mark. One of our signature products is the half moons. During that weekend, any and every half moon that gets sold, we take a dollar and contribute it to the fund. We’ve done some auction stuff and some contests. The next one will be held in April, during Marathon Weekend.
What are some of the bestselling baked goods at Lyndell’s, and how are they made?
Generally speaking, Lyndell’s Bakery is the oldest scratch bakery in New England. That’s a big deal for us, because we sort of use old ways to create products. We bake every single day. 99.99% of our products are fresh, every day. Recipes are as old as 100 years old, that we’ve refused to change. Our head baker, Walter Klemm, has been with us over 40 years. Walter brought his son, David, in about 15 years ago. And Walter and David, their hands are gold. They’re pretty much in charge of the whole baking operation for us. We have a wonderful team of cake decorators who are artistically inclined and love to decorate cakes. What’s been really important for us is every year, we create somewhere between 10,000 and 11,000 custom decorated cakes for customers. And I think that’s helped us sustain the bakery, because there’s a lot of tradition involved. We’ll make cakes for anniversaries, for weddings, for confirmations, for communions, for graduations. And these kinds of things have passed along from generation to generation, in many of the families [of our] customers. So that’s a big business for us, and there’s a lot of emotion associated with it. Because countless times, we have older people coming in with their grandchildren, explaining that when they were their grandchild’s age, their mothers or fathers brought them in and ordered their special occasion cakes. … The half-moons are quite popular. Our danish pastry, which is baked fresh every morning. And we’re sort of under everybody’s radar screen when it comes to our doughnuts. But people have raved about our doughnuts. We just choose not to self-promote them; we let our customers do our talking.
What has it been like to be operating during COVID?
We got through it. We met all the challenges head on. We followed the rules. And we took some significant hits in business, but at the same time, we received all the aid that we applied for. That absolutely helped. But now, with Omicron amongst us, it’s just a new challenge to face right now. We’ll figure out a way to keep the bakery open, because we really believe we provide a vital service to the city. As long as we think we can follow the rules, and we will, and we do, then we’ll continue to operate in the same fashion that we’ve been operating for all these years. I kid people all the time. I say, “Little Lyndell’s has survived through world wars, other pandemics, other kinds of major crises. We’re going to get through this one as well.”
Shira Laucharoen is a reporter based in Boston. She currently serves as the assistant director of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. In the past she has written for Sampan newspaper, The Somerville Times, Scout Magazine, Boston Magazine, and WBUR.