The Weissmans have been bakers of some of the finest Jewish breads for over a century. But after decades in Western Massachusetts, they are returning to New York to join forces with another century-plus-old Jewish food institution: Russ and Daughters.
Gordie Weissman is the former owner and operator of Gus and Paul’s Bakery, a well-known establishment in Springfield that closed last year after churning out rye, pumpernickel, bagels, and bialys for over fifty years. Gordie’s grandfather came to the US around 1904, and became a baker on Manhattan’s Lower East Side (where Russ and Daughters would open in 1914), before moving to the Bronx. In the 1950’s, Gordie’s father (Gus) and (Uncle) Paul moved to Springfield, MA to open their own shop.
Through a little bit of luck, Weissman’s rye bread found its way to Russ family scion Nikki Russ Federman just as she was feeling frustrated in her search for bread for her new cafe, and just as Weissman was looking to return his family business to New York. Eater NY writes that two loaves were passed to Federman by friends, and quotes her reaction to tasting it for the first time:
“It transported me back in time and connected me with some primal thing. I had heard people talk about Jewish rye and black breads with deep memory associations. But there was a disconnect for me. I knew about it in theory but I’m not old enough to have tasted old-style Jewish bread myself. But when I tasted Gordie’s bread I knew that was it.”
The cafe now offers three of Weissman’s breads: rye, pumpernickel, and challah. Weissman is also renting startup space in Long Island City to experiment with his own production.