Down but not out Historic UC bakery still in business after five-alarm fire

Not even 24 hours after a five-alarm fire gutted the Certified Bakery in Union City two weeks ago, the 40-year-old business’s trucks were on the road making deliveries to their well-known clients throughout the tri-state area.

Certified Bakery, on 37th Street and Park Avenue, has been delivering its signature rye and pumpernickel bread across the country and overseas since two Holocaust survivors and brothers-in-law Jacob Grunfeld and David Reich opened it in 1960.

Over the years, Certified Bakery has picked up major clients such as Manhattan’s Carnegie Deli, and ships locally all over New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

While firemen were able to keep the fire from spreading to neighboring businesses, the production area of the bakery was completely destroyed.

“The fire had already [gone] through the roof when the first companies arrived on the scene,” said Director of the North Hudson Fire and Rescue Jeff Welz. Welz said that fire companies began arriving three minutes after the call came in. “The fire grew in intensity within minutes,” he said.

All 18 fire companies responded, and got help from the Secaucus and Guttenberg volunteer squads.

Swapping recipes

Finding a place to house their office was relatively easy for the owners of Certified Bakery, but finding a way to keep their bread baking has been a harder task.

Right now the bakery is working out of a plant in Brooklyn.

“It is a different bakery,” said Ron Grunfeld about the Brooklyn plant. “We are trying to let him use our recipe.”

However, even with their recipe, the bread is not yet coming out right, Grunfeld said.

“We’ve lost a lot of accounts,” said Grunfeld. “We are hoping to get them back when the bread is right. We are not going to go back [to those clients] before.”

Grunfeld also said that he would like to rebuild the bakery, which insurance agents have said will take about eight months to a year to rebuild.

“If it is physically possible,” said Grunfeld about rebuilding the property that he grew up in.

“It’s my whole life,” Grunfeld added. He said that the bakery was pre-family and pre-kids. “I was here more than I was home,” he said.

In the mean time, Grunfeld was using an ex-employee’s apartment across the street from the bakery as an office. The office will soon be moving to a warehouse in Bergen County.

Remembering how it used to be

While many people living in Union City now may not remember The Famous Bakery that was open in the building that housed Certified Bakery prior to 1960, members of the Rosenfeld family, who owned Famous and now live throughout the tri-state area, still hold fond memories of the place where they spent their childhood.

“I went into mourning when I saw [the fire] on TV,” said Marlene Harelick, the oldest of the five Rosenfeld daughters.

The late Abraham Rosenfeld, better known as Al Roth from his days as a prizefighter, and his wife Ester opened the famous bakery in 1938.

“The trucks had to pull out at 2 a.m. for deliveries,” remembered Ester Rosenfeld last week after hearing about the fire.

The bakery delivered to all of the local restaurants and delis in the area and had opened as a bakery and luncheonette.

However, Harelick remembered the people that came to the bakery more than the actual work. “On Thanksgiving, people would line up outside with their turkeys,” said Marlene Harelick, who remembered her mother roasting the turkeys for families in the neighborhood on that holiday.


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