Heller’s Bakery closing in Mount Pleasant

3221 Mt Pleasant Street, NW

Whoa. Heller’s Bakery tells me via email:

“We failed to make an agreement with the landlord to extend our lease. We are going to close for Christmas and Friday the 26th. However, we are going to open Saturday the 27th and last day Sunday the 28th, as a goodbye to all the supporters during the past years. We are on a search for a new location.”

iconic mural

Heller’s 1950 via Heller’s website

80 Comment

  • How about renting space in the DCity Smokehouse building (N Cap and Florida)? Rent should be cheap, and you’re right around the corner from NoMa, Bloomingdale, Shaw, Eckington. Nevermind that Catania bakery is down the street as they don’t have any real retail presence.

    • Forget it, the building was purchased recently. I expect it will be come down in the next few years.

      • Interesting – this is news to me. Do you know who purchased the building? (Thought I’m guessing it was some LLC that obfuscates true ownership.)

    • I’ve heard some rumors that Catania Bakery won’t renew its lease when it’s up? Anyone else heard this? I live up the street and love going on Fri/Sat mornings. Would also hate to lose having their rolls at A. Litteri and Mangialardo & Sons!

  • I’m sad Heller’s is closing because it’s always such a shame to lose a neighborhood institution, but I’m even more sad that the quality went downhill to the point I’m not sure it really deserved to stay open anymore. My last few visits there were deeply disappointing. I’m not a coffee snob at all, but I had a cup once there that tasted like it steeped on a parking lot. The extra 5 minute walk to Le Caprice became increasingly worth it.

    • I hate seeing a small business go as well, but I was in there 3 weeks ago for the first time ever (even though I’ve lived in the area for a year) and it was NOT a pleasant experience. The staff was super nice but the desserts and coffee were woefully underwhelming. I recall not finishing the piece of cake I bought. Anyway, I hope another family-owned business gets to move in. I do love to support those. I’ll stick with Le Caprice for now (probably as long as I live in DC — their desserts and coffee are awesome).

    • PDleftMtP

      The current ownership did not do a good job. I LOVE the idea of a neighborhood bakery, but we just didn’t want to eat 95% of the things they had, and the owners could be downright unpleasant.

      Here’s hoping this isn’t just another greedy Mt Pleasant landlord who’ll hold out for the sucker tenant who’s never coming.

    • I was in Mt Pleasant a couple months ago having my jeep worked on and made my first visit to Hellers. I was starving and pretty much would have eaten whatever that had left that afternoon. I walked over to the counter, examined the nearly empty display shelves, and watched with incredulity as a roach scuttled across a piece of wax paper in plain view of the woman behind the counter who looked neither surprised nor conservned. On the upside, I found MP has a pizza joint down the block that serves a decent slice.

  • Wasnt there a PoP post years ago about someone buyig a cake what was totally moldy on the inside and hellers being a dick about the refund. Its sad to lose local businesses but too many in DC have been coasting on that reputation for too long and figured quality didn’t matter. It did and still does. I still can’t believe people think Bens chili bowl is that good too….

  • I’m sorry whenever a long time business closes, but in this case it’s only for nostalgic reasons. Heller’s is really not very good. Unfortunately, this just creates one more empty space on the street.

    • next time you actually visit this street count how many empty storefronts there actually are.

      • I’m there every day. I can think of four empty stores off the top of my head. Soon to be five, with the closing of the clothes boutique.

      • PDleftMtP

        I’ve lived in Mt. Pleasant for 20 years, and it’s a poster child for retail decay. Be realistic.

        • try again. There are 2 (Heller’s being 3). The sun discount will be a subway (down to 2). Tonic is still close up (I guess you could count last exit separately).

          Fast burrito, which supposedly shut down, it still operating. What am I missing?

          Retail decay? Really? In the past 20 years was it anything more than it is now? Retail stagnant. Ok, I’ll accept that.

  • So glad they will be gone. For 5 years I’ve tried to like this place, but it is horrible. Rude service, cold food, moldy baked goods, and last time I was in, I saw a roach in the bakery case. I just hope we get something good in its place. A nice neighborhood restaurant like domku or something similar would do great business here.

    • A few blocks over is Le Caprice — I know, I sound like I’m shilling for them but I swear I’m not — I just love them to pieces. Wonderful atmosphere and the food is out of sight. Also, everyone is there — parents, nannies, kids, academics, all the locals in the apartment bldg there, business folks, students, hipsters, dogs — everyone.

  • What are they going to do with the multiple, handwritten “RESTROOM CLOSES AT 2:30” signs that hang prominently and unappetizingly on the back wall?

  • Blithe

    Heller’s used to make the best poundcake in the world. Sadly, that was a long, long time ago. I’m sorry that the bakery is closing. I hope that someone can snag that poundcake recipe and continue the tradition.

  • mtpgal

    The last time I went into Heller’s (about 6 weeks ago) there were several roaches crawling in the glass case. This place is disgusting and the service is horrible. Good riddance.

  • Come to Kennedy St!! There is lots of cheap real estate and hungry people!!

  • amazing it lasted as long as it did — I moved to Mt. P in 2004 and the service was simply horrendous. The food was only slightly better. Between the sign, the history, and the space, it had great potential. But I won’t miss it one bit.

    Also, it never smelled like they actually baked anything there…that was always bizarre. Shouldn’t a bakery smell like baked goods???

  • No big loss. Each Peach has better baked goods and service.

  • Not surprised. The management there is terrible. Hopefully something cool moves in.

  • Where will Ben Affleck live now? (Cf. “State of Play”, 2009)

  • Show some respect for an institution that has been around for many, many years before any of you started criticizing it. Sure it may have had some issues but it’s still a Mount P landmark. Don’t be so rude.

    • People aren’t being rude. Hellers did themselves a disservice to their longstanding previous reputation by letting the place spiral into disgustingness and horrendous customer service. I am sad saying it, but how I really feel is “good riddance.”

    • So what you’re saying is we should look past the fact that it smelled like a gangrenous foot, it generally had more roaches than donuts in stock, and its food was moldier than the grime behind the counterperson’s ears?

      Longevity does not immunize a business from criticism, and Hellers deserves more than its share. It’s a shame it had to go out a mold-covered husk of its former self, but that’s the way it goes when the owners give up.

    • Oh wow. We’re supposed to cherish a place because of a sign over the door — while ignoring molded desserts, rude service, bad food, and roaches?

    • I grew up in DC and remember Heller’s being a disappointment back in the 80’s.

    • Don’t be so rude is exactly what I wanted to say to the people behind the counter last time I visited. Unfortunately for Hellers, years in operation is not the only thing that factors into a business’ reputation.

    • For businesses, respect starts with providing something of value to the customer. This place didn’t in recent years and now it is gone. And it’s not an institution. Management of the bakery has changed several times working under a name painted on a wall. The mural may be “historic” but it stops there.

      Who knows what comes next? Maybe Benjamin Moore needs another location but with any luck perhaps we can get the cafe/restaurant that should have moved in to other paint store.

  • I’ve lived nearby for 5+ years. I wanted to like this place but couldn’t – not good food, rude staff, not clean. Hopefully something good will move in soon that people will want to patronize. If a restaurant, something to complement our existing and tasty Asian and central American places.

    As for Heller’s being an institution, the name has been around a long time but the management has not. It ceased being Ye Olde Bake Shoppe long ago.

  • Are there really any quality backeries in this city? A place you would go out of your way to.

    • Le Caprice! Yes, this is my 3rd comment about it. No shame.

      14th Street next to the fire station.

      • Le Caprice is what I always wanted Hellers to be. Really nice family who go out of their way to talk to you, amazing baked goods and decent lunch. I gave Hellers a 2nd, 3rd and 4th chance and it continued to be bad.

      • I’ll back you up on that one.

      • This is my 2nd comment about Le Caprice. No shame here either. Great bakery. Everything there is excellent and the couple that runs it are about the sweetest people in the world.

    • Bread Furst is Van Ness is quite good. Some of the best croissants I’ve ever had!

      • How about someplace that isn’t ridiculously expensive. DC basically sucks for good basic bakery as well as restaurants that aren’t high concept.

      • Breadfurst makes all their croissants and breads. Le Caprice does not, and their is nothing wrong with that, but making puff pastry by hand doesn’t come cheap.

        The idea of a neighborhood bakery/market is cute, but their rent is likely way too high and a dunken donuts will be there anytime now.

        We are a cheap culture that doesn’t want to pay for quality, unless it is electronics that are obsolete in 6 months.

    • Paisley Fig at Room 11 is a great bakery. Their wedding cakes are gorgeous (they made ours) and their scones and sticky buns are to die for. I wish they sold bread though.

    • I may be an enormous Philistine, but the best non-homemade bread I’ve had in DC was from Harris Teeter. Combination of an extremely low bar and surprisingly good grocery store baking.

  • For the 10+ years I’ve lived in DC (many of them in MtP) I have given Heller’s my business only for lack of better choices. I love old time neighborhood institutions as a rule, and give them the benefit of the doubt, but Heller’s was lackluster in everything it did. I bemoan empty retail on this strip, but I have high hopes for a high quality replacement. Hey, I know an idea…a neighborhood bakery!

  • to echo many other feelings- yes it is sad to loose a neighborhood institution, but come on heller’s, your space was a wreck and last time i went in there were stink bugs all over the counter with coffee supplies. each peach is great- but let’s hope for another spot that will have GREAT coffee and yummy bagel sammies

  • They nearly “poisoned” my daughter’s birthday party. When we figured out something was wrong I was basically slapping cake out of the hands of children. We later figured out the problem may have been too much lemon extract – way, way too much. The cake smelled like lemon pledge. I took it back and they were rude and didn’t apologize or offer a refund.

  • This sounds strange. I thought the owner of Heller’s owned the building?

  • I don’t care what people say, I loved that place. They had great breakfast sandwiches, great Christmas cookies, and apple fritters the size of a toddler.

  • Best donuts in the city, when warm out of the oven. Rude service, so-so coffee and the rest of the desserts were yuck. But. BEST. DONUTS. IN. THE. CITY. I was a hero in my office every time I brought them in.

  • Yeah their coffee usually did suck, but I loved the donuts too. RIP Hellers.

  • As a former employee–good riddance. Maybe the new place will fix the disgusting pest issues that made working here such an embarrassment.

  • A woman with Capital Kombucha told me that both CK and 2Armadillos (roasted chickpeas) share Hellers’ kitchen (or maybe use kitchens attached to Hellers?). I wonder whether they’re being displaced too.

  • Praise! That place has sucked for several years — just awful!

  • Love Hellers Bakery. So sad to see this landmark go. Wish Hellers can find a new location!!

  • Good riddance. Will never forget ordering my kids a egg sandwich served on a Styrofoam plate, with the foam melted on the sandwich. Hey, my dad’s been taking me there since the 70’s but enough is enough. .

  • Why was that thin guy who worked behind the counter in the morning so mean? He never seemed happy. He never smiled. None of the staff seemed interested in getting to know the local clientele. I always wondered what drew to the staff to working in a bakery. They seemed annoyed anytime they had to wait on a customer. Such a stark contrast to some of the other local businesses on MtP Street. It’s a shame that we are losing a bakery. Bakeries should be happy places that smell great and that people are excited to patronize. I mean, who doesn’t love indulging in a sweet or savory treat? But Heller’s was just cold, unfriendly, and sad in there. Why couldn’t they smile just once? There must be a story behind that.

  • Come over to Anacostia

  • My grandparents were the original owners of Hellers, and my father and his siblings all worked in the bakery growing up. I have fond memories of picking out cookies and going to look at the mixers in the back as a child. They sold the bakery years ago; none of their children wanted to take it over as my dad told me “it was just too much hard work.” My grandfather would go in at 3am to start making the bread for the day. I agree, whenever I go for the past few years I have been underwhelmed by the service and then desserts, it really is a shell of what it use to be, but it still saddens me tremendously that it is closing.

    • saf

      Me too. Long, long ago we got our wedding cake there. (and the tuxes at Woodies. And the rehearsal dinner at Petito’s Restaurant at Woodley Park.)

      So many places gone.

    • Blithe

      Heller’s pound cake; Velatis caramels, Avignon Freres; Crisfield’s; Reeve’s strawberry pie; Posin’s — especially the sable and the pickles; Gifford’s ice cream…. That’s what the celebrations of my childhood used to taste like.
      – thanks for your post S.Heller. I was already having a nostalgic kind of day — and the details in your post made it even more so.
      – Saf, I remember when Woodies had everything — including a wonderful tailoring shop. I still have a rug that I bought from Woodies just before they closed for good.

  • I am really sorry to disappoint you folks for Hellers, but the re-doing of Hellers required an enormous amount of work that needed to be done AT THE BUILDING ITSELF before we re-fresh the bakery. That required plans, permits and closing for at least six month. Since November 2013 we spoke to the landlord to make the changes. That required new drawings, which we did. Also we started getting bids for the work to be done. We estimated a $400K project. We started looking for investors and they came forward but a little bit slow and . The landlord did not believe we had the money to revive it as we were told the lease was not going to be extend it.
    For the product: it was very fresh in he morning and there were no preservatives to keep it a long time (there always Giant or Safeway)
    For the cockroaches: We did not have them till a couple years ago. We cleaned our counter tops with bleached water and bombed every Monday afternoon. The cabinets were old and our fight was a continuous battle. There was no choice , but redo the entire bakery.
    For a couple of cakes we made wrong. We apologize. But there is no cake competition (the cake part of it) in DC better than ours. Great recipe. Maybe we did not have the best icing.
    For that guys attitude: His name is Tom and he is a great guy, yes he is sharp, but he is working and dealing with all of the people that are nice and the people that complain and he does not know who you are.
    Yes “The Caprice” is a good bakery. Let’s re-phrase. Everything in there is brand new.
    We believe we can re-build the brand back to its fame if we start fresh again.
    This is the last comment from me and it is not a debate for you guys to start writing and try to find out “who’s fault”. It’s a little bit of everyone., and definitely mostly mine that did not have enough money to keep up with it.

    Thanks for all the comments.

    • Aleks, you’ve just made excuses for a multi-year cockroach infestation, a rude employee and a product that falls below the competition. Is this what you tell potential investors?

  • At work a couple years ago, I walk into the kitchen and see that holy grail of breakroom treats, a big box of doughnuts! Grad one and take a bite only to immediately gag and spit it out in the trash. It was a nasty, greasy, foul abomination of a doughnut. I checked the box lid to see where this crap pastry came from and, yep, Hellers. Then checked with the coworker that brought them in to make sure they weren’t from last week and was told they were picked up fresh that morning. Sorry Aleks, make all the excuses you want but your product is terrible.

  • I’ve never been a devotee to Heller’s for many of the reasons mentioned, but why no discussion of the landlord? Who owns that building? My experience with the landlord of an adjacent building years ago was worse than anything anyone has said about the baked goods on this thread. Definite disregard for tenants — I wonder if it is the same one.

  • Aleks I do wish you success in the future and I hope you can find a new spot for Hellers. The donuts and cakes are some of my favorites. Many members of my family will be by this weekend to wish you luck and see the bakery again before it closes.

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