On days when the wind is blowing south, the aroma from the Kingston Tropical Bakery hits you almost as soon as you exit the No. 2 train at 225th Street in the Bronx.
The constant flow of people in and out of the shop signals the popularity of this 47-year-old storefront in Wakefield, largely known for its Jamaican patties and its coco bread, a starchy, sweet, white concoction.
âWe havenât changed much,â the manager Caroline Sinclair said. âItâs the consistency that has made us last this long.â
John and Joyce Levi, Ms. Sinclairâs brother-in-law and sister, opened the business, at 226th Street and White Plains Road, in 1970. It was the first bakery to cater to Caribbeans in what was then a largely Jewish, Irish and Italian neighborhood. Now Wakefield has plenty of businesses that focus on its more prominent West Indian population.
âWeâve never advertised,â Ms. Sinclair said, âbut business has been good since the store opened.â
A beef patty was 65 cents when she started working there 30 years ago. Now it costs $2.25, or $23 for a dozen.
Bakers work in two shifts; batches of chicken and vegetable patties are made in the morning, while the beef patties are made in the afternoon. Although Ms. Sinclair declined to disclose how many patties are produced daily, she said all of them were handmade using fresh ingredients like thyme and Jamaican scotch bonnet peppers. And she said they were never frozen.
The dough is made on site and the patties formed using a small hand-crank machine. After the bakery was featured in an episode of the Travel Channelâs âBizarre Foods With Andrew Zimmernâ last year, Ms. Sinclair said she received dozens of calls about the patty maker, including one from Denmark.
Not everyone comes in for a patty. Some grab a loaf of bread, a pack of buns or a copy of the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper. On holidays like Easter and Christmas, top sellers are a specialty fruit cake and duck bread, a hard duck-shape bread. On weekends, the line often extends out the door, as people who used to live in the neighborhood come back to stock up, Ms. Sinclair said.