There’s a word that comes up a lot in speaking with the people who run businesses operating out of Industry City: community. It’s no different with Colson Patisserie.
“There are times when it’s like our ice machine is broken – can we borrow ice? Let’s check with Ends Meat, with One Girl Cookies because they’ll have bakery supplies. I know Shamus at Brooklyn Brine has salt if I need it. Our success on the ground floor is everybody else’s success and their success is ours. One person bringing it in multiplies,” says Andrew Hackel, Colson’s Director of Sales.
Founder Yonatan Israel sees his shop as furthering that sense of community in what they describe as a sort of mini city. “People come to us morning, lunch, and evening. That’s what a good pastry shop does. It’s why I wanted to open one. It becomes a place that’s in people’s life. It’s comforting.”
That sense of community extends to the people who work at Colson. Most are Brooklynites with some even hailing from the surrounding neighborhood.
There’s also an element of happenstance the two men share with others at Industry City. Neither set out intending to run a patisserie. French-born Yonatan was a New School-trained filmmaker and Andrew worked in finance. But they both clearly have a passion for the path they’ve found.
Aside from the operation and storefront at Industry City, Colson’s maintains its original location on 9th Street in Park Slope. Yonatan opened the shop there in August of 2006. His vision was to recreate the famous shop in Belgium run by Hubert Colson, a family friend with whom he trained as a pastry chef.
The shop thrived, becoming known not only for its buttery croissants but for savory food like salads and sandwiches as well as specialty items like sufganiyot, or jelly doughnuts eaten at Chanukah time. Those were so popular that people complained they were only available during the holidays so Yonatan now serves them year round. They are seriously delicious.
All the exquisitely designed products are overseen by Executive Chef Natalie Abrams.
As Yonatan explains it, shortly after opening in Park Slope they began receiving requests for wholesale orders and quickly outgrew the space. Despite the volume of its wholesale and retail business, the shop still wasn’t financially viable. If that was going to happen, Yonatan knew they would have to find a larger space to accommodate the wholesale orders.
“It was 3 shifts of 8 hours but only 1-2 people could work at the same time because the space was so small,” he says.
In 2012, shortly before current owner, Jamestown took over Industry City, local ice cream maker Blue Marble moved into space there. Andrew, who came on shortly after Colson’s move to Industry City, explains, “The refrigeration people who had done the installation for Blue Marble, when they were fixing one of the fridges at Colson on 9th Street said, ‘hey, did you check out this big new place? If you’re looking for space, come check it out.’”
They moved into a 2,800-square-foot space in Building 2. “You could reach out and touch both walls of the cafe” says Andrew. Building 2 holds particular meaning for him – it’s where he joined Colson and learned the business over the course of a year by working at various positions while focusing on developing sales. He recounts the charm of customers helping Molly Wilson (who now runs their catering and sales) with her crossword puzzles as they ordered. No one has time for crosswords in the shop these days.
Colson quickly outgrew Building 2 as well. Even though their lease wasn’t up, Industry City worked with them to find a better fit and, in October 2016 they moved overnight across the street to their current 8,000-square-foot location:
Today, Colson has a thriving wholesale and retail business. They’ve grown from those original few employees to 45 employees between Industry City and 9th Street, 40 of which are full time.
They started with 28-30 daily wholesale deliveries and currently do 175. The bulk of those are in Brooklyn, but they also include seven accounts in New Jersey and one in Philadelphia. Every week, they go through 125 50-lb bags of flour, 60 cases of European butter, and 30 cases of American butter.
The growth in size hasn’t dampened the charm Colson established in their previous, smaller incarnations. The shop is still a warm, welcoming place and has established itself as a vital part of the business community in Industry City.
And while that kind of growth always comes with a certain degree of risk for a small business, Yonatan believes that the opportunities offered by their partnership with Industry City have helped to mitigate some of that risk.
“We’ve been lucky. We’ve had an amazing opportunity to create a retail experience from something that was pretty basic. It’s kind of crazy what’s happened here in the past few years.”
Come down to Sunset Park and wander around Industry City to see it for yourself – be sure to grab a coffee and croissant (maybe a doughnut or two) while you’re at it!