Montague Street Crisis: Lassen & Hennigs

Lassen & Hennings owner Chris Calfa stands guard. (BHB/Sarah Portlock)

Lassen & Hennigs owner Chris Calfa stands guard. (BHB/Sarah Portlock)

Lassen & Hennigs is making smaller cakes — and eating them too!

Now we present our interview with Chris Calfa, owner of Lassen & Hennigs. The longtime local catering giant at 114 Montague St. also owns two Monty Q’s pizzerias (158 Montague St. and 90 Livingston St.) and Court Order, a sandwich lunch spot (52 Court St). But rest assured, Brooklynites, Calfa said he isn’t going anywhere — even if this is the worst he’s ever seen it on Montague Street.
(For more in the series, check out our Montague Street in Crisis page)

Brooklyn Heights Blog: What do you see happening on Montague Street right now?
Chris Calfa, owner, Lassen & Hennigs: There are a lot of people closing up — there are a lot of sales, and everyone’s trying to draw people into their stores. It’s tough on the block now.

BHB: You’ve been here for a while and you’ve seen Montague Street go through economic periods of turmoil, but have you ever seen it like this? How have things changed?
Calfa: In the early ’ 90s it was pretty bad, but now, this is the worst I’ve ever seen it. At nighttime, it’s very slow at night now. It used to be a popular street in Brooklyn to come down, and now a lot of other neighborhoods got a lot better like Park Slope and Carroll Gardens, and people are just staying in their neighborhoods. Montague Street used to be the place to come, like 20 years ago. And now, it’s — well, there are other places to go.

BHB: How is your business? What are you doing to stay competitive?
Calfa: We’re down a little. We’re offering smaller-sized sandwiches and cakes, and we do our own challah. And we’re just keeping our quality the same.

BHB: Where do you see the future of Montague Street?
Calfa: It’s going to be all national tenants, and no more mom-and-pops. They’re going to be all gone, unless they own their own building — but even then, rents are too irresistible and the mom-and-pops are going to rent it out to the national chains because they are the only ones who are going to be able to pay.

BHB: But are you guys going anywhere?
Calfa: No. (smiling)

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  • crybaby

    What a nice guy and family. My life would be empty without Lassen’s around the corner. It’s great to know they aren’t going anywhere.

  • BaHa

    Thirty two years??? My grandfather, Henry Hennigs, founded the store in the late 1920s or early 1930s.. My father used to work there after school.

  • henryliving

    i find the foot a lassen overpriced and of poor quality. close down and open up a real bakery or cheese shop.

  • DuMont Burger

    Nice little slice from my favorite deli. Reminds me of the places I used to inhabit as a kid, the old German deli/bakeries. L+H’s sandwiches are tops – they even have one named after the first part of my nom de internets. Nice people behind the counters and at the register, great baked goods — at a reasonable price considering the location — and always fresh coffee and during the summer, I can make my own Arnold Palmers from the iced tea and lemonade machines. I recommend it for anyone who is in the area … especially in the spring and summer when one can easily take their food down to the Promenade for a great experience.

  • bornhere

    The L&H Web site has a wonderful old picture of the current Montague Street location, complete with Associated and the great liquor store.

  • nate

    I have gotten too many stomach aches from spoiled food I have bought at L&H to ever set foot in there again. The food there is the very worst. Most of it bad, some it inedible and the rest toxic.

  • Claude Scales

    Amazing. I’ve lived here just shy of 25 years, eaten innumerable sandwiches, salads and so forth from L&H, and never found anything disagreeable or spoiled. I must have a naugahyde palate and a cast-iron stomach.

  • CJP

    Yeah. Agree with Claude on this one. Coffee seemed fresh, food was always good and they always gave my kid a cookie on the house. (Kept me coming back repeatedly!)

    Prices seemed a little high but I liked the place a lot and never had any complaints about the quality of the food being served.

    Owner guy took a personal interest in his customers and employees always seemed to get the idea of keeping the check out line as short as possible, always moving in an extra person at the register when necessary.

  • Andrew Porter

    I have to admit that a piece of cake I bought for my birthday last year gave me major gastrointestinal problems. Remind me to wear my reading glasses more often when I go food shopping. Got home in late 2007 with a piece of pumpkin pie from L&H, to find it covered with spots of mold. They did give me my money back, but still…

    They do have good loaves of bread.

  • Homer Fink

    First rule of customer service: no one ever says anything if the soup is good.

    We bought a birthday cake there last week and it was super-fantastic.

  • Josh

    Not only is the food good at Lassen’s but the staff are super-friendly and take a real interest in who I am and what I like

    AND how good are they…nothing speaks more than it and Sahadi’s are the only 2 stores that my out-of-town family always go when they are in town….

  • Mom

    I love the new small cakes! we’ve bought several over the last few weeks…yum!

  • E G

    Wow, the trolls have really come out on this topic!

    L&H baked goods are among the best around, and this has been consistent through the years – the éclair is the best around!

    To be honest I haven’t found the employees to be among my favorites. The women at the registers at Court Order are particularly rude and nasty. Once I was outright offended at the hostility coming from one of them taking my money I promised myself never to go there again. I may have kept that promise.

  • Bart

    I have always been satisfied with the food I’ve bought from Lassen and Hennigs, and the prices are not terribly expensive. But because I’m a good cook I prefer to make my own deli sandwiches, tuna fish, and potato salad. When you can pick the ingredients yourself: the bread, the tomatoes, etc., there’s no way an hourly worker will ever put in the same care. And it’s cheaper!

  • Andrew Porter

    I am not a troll, I am a free man! (Pardon me, I have to leave immediately for Portmeirion, Wales.) I will try their small cakes. But I’ll make sure they’re freshly baked. I have cake only once a year, at my birthday. It’s not like buying a piece of cake is an every day event. Last year’s unpleasantness ruined an otherwise pretty good day for me.