1271 Sixth Avenue
How many times can a chain eatery-even a very soulful chain eatery with organic ingredients and communal tables made of recycled floorboards from old French trains-reproduce itself while keeping some of its soul intact? On the index of corporate soul integrity, Le Pain Quotidien has a lot of things going for it (for instance, a commitment to environmental sustainability and a plant-centric menu). But then, so did Starbucks. The Brussels-born boulangerie hasn’t reached anything approaching Starbucks’ omnipresence, but with its newest opening in Rockefeller Center and talk of another in Central Park, Le Pain Quotidien’s handmade organic loaves are rising throughout the city, like novelty coffee drinks circa 1999.
In fact, far more surprising than the prospect of a rustic, communal cafe in the green glass Time-Life Building is the fact that the chain was not present in Rockefeller Center already. Jay Wainwright, president of Le Pain Quotidien’s U.S. operations, said, “We are confident that this location will be one of our more successful stores.” He also said the company was “happy to bring organic, wholesome food to the Time-Life Building.”
Ed Guiltinan, vice president of Rockefeller Group Development Corporation, which owns the building, agreed, saying the cafe would be “a desirable amenity for tenants in the building” in addition to the scores of tourists visiting Rockefeller Center.
Earlier this month, The New York Times reported that Le Pain Quotidien had plans to restore the Mineral Springs Cafe in Central Park. Though the eatery has yet to gain approval from the Landmarks Preservation Commission, as the name implies, the move would make the cafe one of a select few non-hot-dog vendors in the park, securing a role as something of a New York landmark. It may be more wholesome than a hot dog, but is it more New York?