Levain Bakery: Local Shop Cooks Up a National Business
Pam Weekes and Connie McDonald, swimmers and triathletes, needed the necessary energy and power that comes with long-distance competitions. During their workouts together, they talked about their love of baking, and from those chats, co-created the ultimate chocolate chip cookie to fuel themselves. Out of this came their business, Levain Bakery in 1995, on the Upper West Side, with the Wainscott location in East Hampton opening its door to cookie lovers in the spring of 2000.
From the beginning, they baked everything fresh on-site each day and donated the day’s leftovers to charity each night, actions that remain solidly in place over 25 years later.
Now, of course, you can get more than cookies when you visit Levain at any of its eight locations (with more to open soon)—there’s a wide selection of other baked goods, both sweet and savory, but the cookies are still the mainstay of the business. And Levain Bakery Frozen Cookies recently made their debut in Whole Foods Market, available now across the country. The frozen cookies are made using the same recipes as in the bakeries, and in addition to the new dark chocolate chocolate chip, flavors include the best-selling classic chocolate chip walnut and two chip chocolate chip.
We spoke with Weekes and McDonald about this bastion of baking in Wainscott.
What was the thought behind opening in the Hamptons?
We opened our original flagship location on West 74th in 1995. There was always a steady stream of visitors, but we noticed this slowed in the summers. We realized we needed to follow our customers. Also, Pam grew up on the North Shore of Long Island and we’ve both always loved Long Island and the beach, so the Hamptons felt like the perfect fit personally as well. Wainscott was the perfect location with more affordable rents than being in the center of a town. The community has been welcoming and friendly since day one. We’ve loved getting to know our neighbors for the past 21 years!
What are some of the most popular items out here?
Of course, always the cookies! We also make more pizzas here than in any of our other locations. We make a seasonal fruit rustic tart that is exclusive to the Wainscott bakery. The baguettes with butter and seedless raspberry jam, chocolate chip brioche, blueberry muffins and our savory loaves of bread. We bake everything fresh daily and what we don’t sell we donate to local organizations such as Phoenix House, The Retreat and The Center in Bridgehampton.
What is the most popular cookie?
They are all very popular, but our classic chocolate chip walnut is everyone’s favorite!
How did you get into the wholesale market with the frozen cookies?
Around the same time we were exploring the possibility of opening in the Hamptons, we thought about how we could get our cookies into grocery stores, so it has been a long time. Recently we had the opportunity to make our dream come true. The frozen cookie that you heat to eat at home is the next best thing to coming to the bakery. The best part is that it’s our exact same cookie recipe, made slightly smaller, perfect for everyday snacking! You’ve got a warm cookie, fresh out of the oven and your house smells
What has the response been like?
Amazing, beyond our expectations. We are so excited to have a product we loved available to more people who love and appreciate it as much as we do!
Levain Bakery is at 354 Montauk Highway in Wainscott, and can be found online at levainbakery.com.