This article is part of “Greek New York’s Finest,” our series dedicated to supporting Greek American-owned businesses in our home base of New York City that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. This series of unique stories aims to bring these businesses more attention, publicity and support.
You know you’re doing something right when your family has been in business for almost a century — 97 years, to be exact.
Such is the case at Poseidon Bakery in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen, where the store is in its fourth generation of ownership and has sold homemade baked goods to the likes of Alec Baldwin, Martha Stewart, Ernie Anastos and Olympia Dukakis, among other household names.
“People are grateful that we’re open and to get some home-cooking,” owner Paul Fable tells The Pappas Post. “Generic supermarket food can’t compete with a homemade strudel or baklava.”
Fable says competition has increased in Poseidon Bakery’s area since the early 1990s when an influx of large corporations entered the neighborhood and drove up rents for “mom and pop” shops — many of which closed as a result.
One might ask how Poseidon has not succumbed to a similar fate, especially when its trademark sweets such as baklava, spanakopita (spinach pie) and strudel are mass-produced and readily available at big chain supermarkets.
The secret answer? Fresh filo dough, produced in-house, using the same recipe passed from one generation to the next with the purest ingredients — “and no junk,” as Fable says.
“No one makes their own filo dough anymore,” he says. “We’ve been using our own homemade filo for many generations — since my great grandfather first opened shop in 1923.”
Photographs / Darden Livesay, The Pappas Post
In the back of the store, Poseidon staff spend up to three hours preparing filo dough in a dedicated room where conditions such as temperature and humidity are closely monitored.
There are no shortcuts to this process which, before it even begins, requires two hours of pre-preparation to make the dough that is to be “opened.”
Once prepared, pizza-shaped slabs of dough are stacked in piles and lathered in corn starch in order to keep the dough dry and prevent sticking. The filo makers then grab each piece one-by-one to begin “opening” — twirling the dough in circles and expanding it — using the backside of their hands and wrists.
The filo is stretched out over four corners of a large table and becomes so thin that it’s possible to read the text of a newspaper placed underneath it.
And topping off each layer of filo? Special sheets which the Poseidon team calls “sedonia” (the Greek word). These cloth sheets are intentionally kept at least somewhat moist, Fable says, to prevent the dough from getting dry.
“Our filo has no preservatives and there’s no junk in there,” the 51-year-old baker says. “Our dough is pure with just water, salt, flower — and made with love.”
Poseidon uses its homemade filo not only for baked goods but also sells it to customers in pre-cut and wrapped packages — sometimes even purchased by the pound by well-known chefs.
The day before our visit, Martha Stewart came by to purchase three pounds of filo.
Such high-profile encounters are normal for the bakery in Hell’s Kitchen — a neighborhood which has long been home to actors, arts organizations and Broadway stars alike.
“This area — the theater district — there’s no doubt in my mind that it’ll come back,” Fable says of reduced foot traffic amid the pandemic. “But the question is how they’re going to bring it back.”
Like nearly all small businesses in New York City, Poseidon Bakery remained closed for several months at the height of the pandemic during the spring. But they did make one exception in April.
Two weeks before Greek Orthodox Easter, the store opened to fulfill hundreds of orders of traditional tsoureki bread, koulourakia cookies and other delicacies for its longtime customers.
But despite closing, Poseidon has been among the lucky businesses during the crisis; the store has benefitted from operating mainly on takeout and with a loyal clientele of many decades.
“How is your mother doing?” or “How are the kids?” are routine questions for Fable from customers entering the store to grab a morning coffee and spanakopita.
These customer relationships have been in the store’s DNA from day one. And it all began with Paul’s great-grandfather Demetrios Anagnostou, a Greek immigrant who opened the bakery in 1923.
Demetrios’ son Michael later arrived from Greece in the 1930s to inherit his father’s business alongside his would-be wife Menina Fable — a previously married immigrant from the former Austro-Hungarian Empire who added her own cultural tradition of Austrian strudels into Poseidon’s baking repertoire.
In 1957, Michael was joined by stepsons John and Anthony Fable (Paul’s father), the latter of which would later inherit the store and run it alongside his wife Lili until his passing in 2013.
And despite neither Anthony nor Lili having Greek genes (since Michael Anagnostou was Anthony’s step father), the couple had all but become Greeks themselves over the years and wanted to preserve the same traditions which made Poseidon — Poseidon.
Lili continues the tradition with her son Paul, whose own children have already begun offering a helping hand in the store.
“This is where we were raised and where I’m raising my kids,” Paul says. “My mom is still working with me and it’s something that is never going to change. It’s tradition and it’s our home.”
Poseidon Bakery is located on 629 9th Ave between 44th and 45th Streets. For more information, visit their website.
Video: Meet Paul Fable
Video footage and editing by Darden Livesay.
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