Yesterday, Magnolia Bakery opened it’s tenth US location and celebrated by giving away free banana pudding to the first 50 customers to come in through the door. If you’re sad you missed free banana pudding, don’t worry: You can get this delicious freebie all week, through Sunday, September 15, if you happen to be one of the first 50 customers of the day.
Although the bakery is a chain, with locations across the country as well as international ones, they aim to be a neighborhood bakery and serve the community. I had a chance to talk to Bobbie Lloyd, Chief Baking Officer at Magnolia, who gave me a tour of the small but mighty Union Station store. What strikes me as most amazing is that every treat is baked in-house and held to strict standards across all the bakeries. For instance, Christa LiTrenta, the director of culinary training at Magnolia, was working hard to make sure the whole staff knows how to frost in the exact dipping, bowl-like style that has become iconic. She helps control quality across all the stores. Watching her frosting a cupcake is like watching a master at work.
Ms. Lloyd is particularly proud of her team and of the way she and her business partner, Steve Abrams, have been able to grow Magnolia in a smart way, by investing in bakeries that resemble the original Bleecker Street location in spirit, if not in actual looks. For instance, when coming to the Union Station location, it was especially auspicious that the actual space was a corner– same as the East Village location. In addition, every bakery has the same structural details that unify the brand: Pale green walls, hexagonal tile flowers, old-school light fixtures and a tin ceiling are all charming details on display throughout the Union Station locale as well as all other stores.
After opening in Boston’s Faneuil Hall marketplace, which is also operated by Ashkenazy Acquisition, the opportunity to open in Washington became a reality. Magnolia already does excellent business at train stations –there is one at Grand Central and one at Penn Station in New York– so Union Station seemed like a perfect fit. And the location, within a few paces of Blue Bottle Coffee, Ladurée and not just one but two Starbucks coffee, means that no traveler will go without gaining an additional pound as they leave Washington, D.C.
Magnolia Bakery is also committed to being part of the DC community. They’ve already signed up to be part of the Human Rights Council’s Chefs For Equality event in October, and they welcome parents looking for auction donations: The bakery offers gift cards as well as donations for bake sales. You should visit them if you need more information. They will be open Monday-Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.