The Bakery & History
Greyston's history is rich and comes from a place of true caring and acceptance.
In 1982, Bernie Glassman, a Brooklyn-born Zen Buddhism teacher, was living with his students in a home called Greyston Mansion located north of Manhattan. Along with the Zen Community of New York (ZCNY), Bernie opened a small bakery café nearby as a way to employ the students.
The café successfully supported the students, but Bernie wanted to do more. His Buddhist beliefs drew him to community development and work with the homeless and unemployed. His opportunity came when the mayor of Yonkers invited the ZCNY to move the business to his city. At the time, Yonkers had the highest per capita homeless population in the country. The ZCNY sold Greyston Mansion, closed the café, and moved into one of Yonkers’ most troubled neighborhoods. There, an abandoned lasagna factory became home to Greyston Bakery.
Engaging the Community
None of those committed to this new operation were bakers or businesspeople. Starting capital was limited. A similar Buddhist-run bakery in San Francisco provided inspiration and training for the ZCNY workers at Greyston. After several years, the community began hiring people from the neighborhood. Many of these individuals had unstable lives, lacked education, or had spent time in prison.
It quickly became obvious that that employment was just one of the many unmet needs of the neighborhood. Glassman and his late wife, Sandra (also a Zen teacher) envisioned a nonprofit community development organization that would offer housing, jobs, social services, child care, and HIV-related health care. This was the beginning of Greyston’s community-based programming.
In the mid-1990s, Bernie left Yonkers to pursue other endeavors, but with the solid foundation he, Sandra, and others in the ZCNY community built, Greyston continues to thrive today.