‘Locals Only’ features notable New Yorkers, innovators and friends of CORE and their chosen neighborhoods. We hope to share the magic and uniqueness of New York City’s local areas through the eyes of those who know it best.
Nestled in New York City’s Upper West Side, Levain headquarters is a cozy neighborhood bakery where locals are greeted by name. A steady stream of loyal regulars stand side by side with tourists, eager to sample the legendary baked goods. The bakery was founded in 1994 by friends Connie McDonald and Pam Weekes. At the time, Connie was in banking and Pam in Fashion. The two, both competitive swimmers, trained together for the Ironman and as their tireless workouts left them feeling starved for great food they began a passionate dialog about creating the world’s greatest chocolate chip cookie.
Tell us about your business.
We started as a wholesale bread bakery, bartering space for product, but we always knew we wanted a neighborhood shop. We wanted to do something we loved, be a part of a neighborhood and contribute in some small way to humanity. We still bake everything freshly each day and donate anything left at the end of the day to various shelters. We love doing something that we are happy to do every day!
Why did you choose to base your business on the Upper West Side?
We were looking at affordable spaces and almost ended up in the East Village but at the last minute backed out and the rest is history!
Tell us your 3 neighborhood haunts.
Telepan, ‘Cesca , the Salumeria. We also used to love Citrus and Nancy’s Wines which sadly are no longer there.
What’s your favorite street on the Upper West Side?
West 74th Street of course! We love our neighborhood. We’ve been in that space for 20 years this December and have seen many changes. We have been lucky enough to meet and get to know many of our neighbors and to make some really good friends. We have watched children be born, grow up and come to work at the bakery. And last but definitely not least, we have met, fed (our dog scone treats) and loved many neighborhood dogs.
What do you value here that other neighborhoods don’t have?
The real neighborhood that exists here on the block and the camaraderie of our neighbors.
What’s one thing most people don’t know about the Upper West Side?
That it has so much hidden history. We have seen so much change over the years and things just keep evolving.