Beloved Hamilton Business Rye Berry Announces They Will Close at the End of February

The Rye Berry Bakery & Cafe announced on social media last Saturday, Feb. 12 that it would be permanently closing at the end of February. Owners Krista and Patrick Gramens said that ongoing staffing shortages and stresses of the industry on their family — exacerbated by the pandemic — prompted their decision.

“Over the last 4 years we have made some of the best friends we could have imagined while serving the town of Hamilton… Many of our customers are the light of our daily lives and we will miss you all more than words can say; we appreciate the love and support you have shown us so much. We have also seen much of the opposite and having a small business in a pandemic, more than anything, has been the largest lesson in human psychology,” the post announcing the closure said.

According to their website, the Gramens always had a deep appreciation for cooking and baking. It was only after driving through the village of Hamilton that the couple decided it would be an ideal place to follow through on their dreams and open a place to make artisan bread. After moving from Washington D.C. and starting a family in Hamilton, the new Rye Berry opened in April 2018 with a mission to “to provide our community with the highest quality retail breads in central New York,” according to their  website.

Patrick Gramens also works as the café’s head chef and baker, putting in around 70 hours a week when the café is properly staffed. During the pandemic, however, employees began to call out sick or take extended leaves, requiring overtime work to keep Rye Berry functioning. This left very little time to spend with his family, according to Gramens.

“The main reason for closing is that finding staff in this area (particularly for cooking and baking) has always been quite difficult and even more so due to the pandemic,” Gramens said. “So essentially we decided to close to alleviate the stress on our family, with the root cause of the stress being chronic staffing issues.”

The couple, who cite their growing family as one of the main inspirations behind moving to Hamilton and opening Rye Berry years ago, is expecting another child in July. The arrival of their child, in addition to the stress of managing a small business during a pandemic plagued with staffing shortages, meant that the couple was forced to make the difficult decision to close the bakery and cafe rather quickly.

“With our five year lease up for renewal at the end of August, we couldn’t see ourselves managing the business and 2 young children while constantly trying to find enough staff to run the café for another 5 years,” Gramens said. “While we are sad to close and wish we could have provided more notice to the staff and our customers, certain circumstances made the February closing unavoidable.”

While many visitors will miss the classic menu items and casual ambience of the location, employees say that the loss of daily community interactions will be even more difficult. Senior Mayzie Potton said that the love she has experienced during her time as a Rye Berry employee has made the bakery and café feel more like a family than a workplace.

“The hardest part of it closing has been the regulars, people I’ve seen in there nearly every day for the last three years I’ve been working there,” Potton said. “The people in Hamilton have so much love for this business and it’s employees, and I always forget somehow.” 

Just as devastated as the employees are the many Colgate students and Hamilton residents who also consider Rye Berry to be a second home. With a loyal community following, the news of the bakery and café’s unexpected closing seemed to have made a lasting impact on regular customers, according to Potton.

“We aren’t closing for financial reasons, but still we have people begging us to let them start a [GoFundMe] or sponsor us, or help us advertise more,” Potton said. “Some customers have even offered our employees jobs once we have closed down. It’s incredible how much of an impact they made for the short time they were here.”

The Rye Berry serves an assortment of pastries and coffee, along with a breakfast and lunch menu featuring their home-made artisan bread selection. Staffing shortages resulting from the pandemic had already led them to pare down their menu and limit their hours at the beginning of the New Year. 

Students expressed their disappointment after hearing the news of the café and bakery closing. Rye Berry regular and senior Alique Fisher commented on what she will miss most.

“[Rye Berry] became like a second home for me in Hamilton. I’m really going to miss not only the amazing sourdough and cold brew, but also the staff and the welcoming space that I feel I like grew up in throughout my time [at Colgate],” Fisher said.

Gramens confirmed that the Rye Berry space at 37 Lebanon Street already has arrangements to be taken over. While he declined to disclose more specific details as information on the location’s future has yet to be made public, their closure announcement indicated it would be taken over by friends. “With all that said, we ask you not to worry, as the space will be in the BEST hands it possibly could be,” their social media post announcing the closure said, sparking speculation as the community waits for details to be announced.