Help NYC Greenmarket's Martin's Handmade Pretzels

To our valued customers,

As most of you now know, on Saturday, December 12, our New York pretzel bakery, owned and operated by my partner, Josiah Martin, caught fire and burned to the ground.  Our robust online business, the lifeline of the NY bakery and the Martin's Handmade brand, abruptly came to a halt.

The impact of this devastating loss is far-reaching.  200 of our customers that placed a order for our most recent campaign woke up to an email refunding and cancelling their holiday order.  Our friends and partners at specialty food stores and national online retailers aren’t able to have their orders filled either.   Our distribution in NYC—from Fresh Direct to our beloved Greenmarkets, where most of you first discovered these delicious handmade pretzels, will also feel the pain for the foreseeable future.  There is a ripple effect that has and will continue to work its way through our employees and their families, the communities that support them, our partners & supply chains.  Indeed, we're all affected and we're all connected.

We had big plans for 2021!  We were excited to continue to build upon our web sale success in the past year and roll out free shipping for web orders.  The bakery was also built equipped to meet the necessary guidelines to get into larger grocers in our region and throughout the country.  I was hoping to make changes at our markets and introduce reusable bags, and I even started the process of bringing a Bavarian-style soft pretzel to our Greenmarkets and website!  Josiah and I were looking forward to the end of the year, when we both had a little time to breathe again after the busy holiday season and start plotting out our course for the coming year.    

So many of you in my network have asked how you can help. The support from this community has been truly overwhelming.  The response from my email list of loyal, online customers, my small, but strong social media following, the entire Greenmarket community--including fellow producers and customers alike, my friends & family has been so encouraging.  Please know that in the last few days, your emails, texts, phone calls & conversations at market have given me the extra push whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed with all of the moving pieces and the sudden uncertainty that lies ahead.  To be honest, there hasn't been enough time to determine exactly what we need, but many of you have encouraged me to put this up anyway, certainly sensing the immediacy of the moment.  I know we’ll need help bridging the gap and plugging some big holes here in the city staffing our markets until there’s a new bakery and we’re able to sell online & distribute again.  Additionally, I want to be able to use this network of ours to help supplement what insurance won't pay for, so we can also help Josiah rebuild and pursue the plans we had in store to keep the handmade pretzel alive for another generation. We’re hopeful the bakery’s insurance will allow Josiah to rebuild completely, but it's hard to know and we’re not sure how long that will take to determine, to say nothing of how long we’ll have to go without those vital sales outlets.

The business partnership of Martin’s Handmade and the two Martin's Pretzel Bakeries (PA & NY)  has been an ongoing collaboration of three businesses working separately, but together since 1982 to keep the handmade pretzel alive.  As the number of handmade pretzel bakeries continued to shrink over the past 30+ years, we have been able to survive thanks to your support and the strong network that was first established when Alfred Milanese introduced New Yorkers to the PA Dutch-style pretzel so many years ago.

The New York bakery has fulfilled all of our online orders since we started the page in the early 1990s.  In recent years, we also started distributing our pretzels for resale to specialty food stores, corporate clients, media outlets, airports and more—in NY and throughout the country.  The future was looking pretty bright for Martin's Handmade!

In March of 2020, when things began shutting down due to COVID-19, we were facing a pretty critical moment (like most small business were).  Commuters, tourists, bars, restaurants and specialty food stores—a huge chunck of our customer base—disappeared, practically overnight.  Market sales were down 80% for months.  I had to make the painful decision to furlough my staff and drop two markets that we attended for over 30 years.  It was a rough spot.  But I was grateful that GrowNYC was able to work with the state & the city to deem farmer’s markets essential businesses.  

We realized very quickly during the pandemic, that a pivot to focus on web sales was the answer to both the moment and the longevity of the Martin’s Handmade brand.  We’ve accumulated a large mailing list over the years and thankfully, with the help of Greenmarket’s FarmROOTS program, we revamped our website last June and our online growth was already well established by the time we had to lean into web sales to make it through the slower months during a pandemic.  Josiah ultimately decided the best way to answer that call from the manufacturing end was to move his grandfather Lloyd’s bakery from Theresa to the site of his father’s bullk food store, located in Moira, NY, so he could be more hands-on in that effort. 

In October of this year, Josiah excitedly opened the doors to the new bakery and we launched a WELCOME BACK flash sale that proved the pivot to mailorder was the right direction and we’ve been slammed with orders ever since. We were very proud of the work that Josiah and his family put into moving the bakery to start the next chapter for the NY Martin’s Pretzel Bakery.

Last Saturday, all of that was put on hold.  Josiah walked out of his house to see his bakery engulfed in flames.  We don’t know why. We don’t know how. The investigators have yet to identify the origin of this fire, but the end result is the same:  the NY bakery is no more.  

We're doing our best to keep perspective, keep moving forward, and rely on those eager to support us through this difficult time. The Greenmarkets will continue, through the winter, with pretzels from Clarence Martin’s Pennsylvania bakery—which was the original bakery before Lloyd Martin moved to Theresa, NY and built a second bakery in 1991.  Clarence has been baking pretzels for us continuously since he took the bakery over from his brother in the mid-1980s, and we’re thankful that relationship can continue, so at least our Greenmarkets and crew in the city can continue to work.  In the days, weeks and months ahead, I'll continue to reach out and update our progress--here, on our Instagram page @MartinsPretzels and our website  

Again, thank you all for this outpouring of support.  Supporting us also doesn’t have to mean donating money.  This is a community of interesting, remarkable people with incredible talents! Maybe you have a skill that you think could be helpful for us, now or in the future?  Digital marketers, graphic designers, lawyers, investors: I'd love to talk to you!  For those of you in NYC, please keep shopping at Greenmarkets this winter...we're gonna need you this year more than ever!

Lots of love...
Handmade Forever!

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Ethan Gallagher
Maplewood, NJ

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