December 24, 2008: 2008, Issue 52
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Today’s news:

Pastry in Pt. Morris goes ‘puff’

Port Morris is for furniture movers. Port Morris is for oil tanks. Port Morris is for the Bx33 bus.

Is Port Morris for puff pastries too?

It is, thanks to state and federal financing. Two years ago, the wind-whipped industrial neighborhood lured Dufour Pastry Kitchens to the Bronx from Manhattan. Port Morris belongs to the Hunts Point Empire Zone and the New York Empowerment Zone.

Empire Zone tax credits and an Empowerment Zone loan helped Judi Arnold and Carla Krasner lease Dufour’s 15,000-square foot factory on Locust Avenue. Their frozen crusts and hors d’oeuvres have since won praise from celebrity chefs like Rachel Ray, Kate Lee Joel and Martha Stewart. The two women founded Dufour in 1984.

Arnold and Krasner liked Port Morris’ affordability; they worked with the Hunts Point Economic Development Corporation and the Bronx Overall Development Corporation to secure government funding, including a U.S. Small Business Administration-backed loan.

Dufour spent 20 years in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, itself a blue-collar neighborhood turned swanky success story. Arnold and Krasner began as gourmet pizza makers, hemmed in by gruff butchers and wholesalers. They later switched to hors d’oeuvres. Today, among chefs and hoteliers, Dufour is a respected brand name.

The company manufactures frozen hors d’oeuvres, puff pastry crusts and tart shells for distribution and retail. Grace’s Market, Whole Foods, Williams Sonoma and Dean & DeLuca are customers.

Puff pastry dough is “a very sophisticated, elegant, high-rising, layered dough,” according to Arnold. Think potpies, Napoleons and Wellingtons.

“We’re innovative and we pay attention to detail,” Arnold said. “Our puff pastries are buttery, flaky and hand-finished. Because puff pastry dough is so labor intensive, most chefs don’t make it. They serve our dough, and pretend it’s theirs.”

When Dufour outgrew its 9,600-square foot Manhattan home, Arnold and Krasner looked north to the Bronx, where semi-trucks roam free.

“We ship cross country,” Arnold said. “Trucks leaving Queens and Brooklyn have to get over two rivers. Trucks leaving the Bronx only have to cross one.”

All of Arnold and Krasner’s regular employees followed Dufour to the Bronx.

Arnold and Krasner stumbled on their Port Morris space when a neighborhood piano maker tipped Arnold’s husband off. They reworked the warehouse, adding a 2,300-square foot freezer and dough-related machinery.

An interest-free, Bronx Initiative for Energy and the Environment loan secured through the BOEDC sped Dufour’s project along. In return, the company promised to outfit its new equipment for energy efficiency. The BOEDC also fed Dufour a workforce.

“BOEDC was the best; they saw our business would be good for the neighborhood,” Krasner said.

Dufour employs 30 to 35 people in Port Morris year round, more in the winter. Seven of those live in the area.

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