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German breads, cakes and Puccini

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Herb Glaser piping "Happy Birthday, Dad" on a chocolate ganache cake at Glaser's Bake Shop. The 116-year-old German bakery in New York is scheduled to close on July 1.

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Irresistible - a tray of lemon meringue tarts.

New York

OPERA - today it was La Bohème - boomed in the kitchen at the back of Glaser's Bake Shop, a 116-year-old German bakery on First Avenue and 87th Street. The work space, with its four ovens, was cluttered with racks holding cakes and cookies, an industrial-size mixer and a wooden workbench, piled high with 100-pound bags of sugar and flour.

Co-owner and head baker Herb Glaser, 65, wearing white cotton pants and an apron streaked with frosting, was busy icing birthday cakes and glazing black-and-white cookies.

While the Puccini played, customers - forming a line that stretched to the door - looked at the cookies, Danishes, brownies and sticky buns that were on display, as well as the "family wall", which has mementos from Glaser's history, including the picture from opening day on April 2, 1902, and a family recipe book from 1930.

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Meghan Higgins was in to pick up animal-shaped butter cookies. "I'm buying these for my nieces who beg me for them, but I'm a sucker for their cinnamon doughnuts," she said. Ms Higgins has been a customer for 10 years. "I discovered the place by walking by and smelling it," she said.

These days people are lining up for Glaser's "bunny bread", a rabbit-shaped coffee cake with a coloured egg baked into it.

Time to retire

Customers had better enjoy the lines and the opera and the shelves of Easter treats while they can: The bakery - one of the few remaining German businesses in Yorkville (once known as German Town) - is scheduled to close on July 1. "It's time for my brother to retire and enjoy our lives while we still have our health," said Herb, 65, who has run the business with his 67-year-old brother, John, since their father died in 1999.

John Herbert Glaser - Herb's grandfather and a professional baker in his native Germany who immigrated to the city - opened Glaser's after buying the building that houses it.

John started off selling loaves of bread but quickly expanded to cakes and cookies. His son and Herb's father, also named Herb, stepped in to run Glaser's in 1935, when he was only 18, after John died unexpectedly of an infection. The younger Herb and John are the current - and the last - Glaser generation in charge of the bakery.

John arrives at 3 am and leaves by the early afternoon while Herb, who lives above the business just as his father and grandfather did, starts at 8 am and stays all day. The brothers intend to sell the building after the bakery closes. Herb said he planned to relocate to New Paltz, New York, where he has a house.

Many of the pastries, breads and cookies on offer date to the bakery's founding, Herb said. Glaser's also inherited a few recipes, including cherry honeybee cookies, from Kramer's Pastries, another German bakery in the neighbourhood, after it closed in 1999.

Sara Evans, a customer of 40 years, walked in and asked what kinds of Danishes were available. Apple, cheese, pecan and prune were among the choices; Ms Evans settled on apple. "Everything is so good that it's hard to pick, and that's why I'm in here too often," she said. Ms Evans was lucky; she was able to buy her apple Danish right before the next customer rush.

As the bakery filled with people, Terri Cooney, an assistant baker for 20 years, kept things calm, repeatedly saying: "The floor is yours, and you control the speed of the ride. Take your time and enjoy it." NYTIMES