Magnolia Bakery to fight coronavirus with futuristic ‘cleanse portal’


Who would’ve thought a cupcake could be so cutting edge?

Baked goods enthusiasts looking to satisfy their sweet tooth amid the coronavirus pandemic can expect to catch some rays soon at Magnolia Bakery, which is installing futuristic-looking portals and purple-hued ceiling lights that will drench patrons and workers in potentially disease-destroying far-ultraviolet light.

“Magnolia is experiential,” chief baking officer Bobbie Lloyd told The Post on Monday. “[Customers] want to come in, they want to look, they want to pick and choose. … We wanted to make sure the staff has the confidence that they’re safe and customers have the confidence that they’re safe.”

Customers at Magnolia’s Upper West Side shop on Columbus Avenue will soon have to step through a “Cleanse Portal” — resembling a sleeker version of a courthouse magnetometer — and slowly turn 360 degrees to get sanitized for 20 seconds with far-UVC.

The shop, and a second location in the West Village, will also replace its recessed lighting with special ones that also emit far-UVC.

UV light has long been known to be effective at killing bacteria and viruses — but those rays are harmful to humans, according to Dr. David Brenner, a professor of radiation biophysics and director of the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University.

But far-UVC light is safe for humans because of its “very limited range,” Brenner said.

“It just doesn’t go very far,” he explained. “On the surface of the skin, we have a layer of dead cells. It can’t penetrate that level of dead cells.”

Magnolia cupcakes
Magnolia cupcakesBrian Zak

Fred Maxik, chief scientific officer of Healthe, the company that sells the far-UVC lights and portals, said the products emit about 220 nanometers of far-UVC, which he said was “skin safe, eye safe, human safe.”

He pointed to research that has shown far-UVC to be safe for humans but effective at killing airborne coronaviruses, including the one that causes COVID-19 and the common cold.

Brenner and his team are currently studying the effects of the rays on hairless mice and have yet to see evidence of any harm.

“Eight months in and absolutely nothing,” he said.

The Columbus Avenue location and Magnolia’s 5,000-square-foot e-commerce production facility in Harlem will also feature portals, ensuring that it’s more than a dozen employees are sanitizing on their way in and again on their way out.

Lloyd said the coronavirus pandemic has slashed Magnolia’s storefront business in New York City by about 25 percent but the beloved bakery’s e-commerce business is booming with customers shipping its famous banana pudding across the country as gifts.

“It’s quadrupled in cake sales, which tells me people still want to have their life celebrations,” she said.

Lloyd expects the other four Magnolia locations in the city to be outfitted with the state-of-the-art sanitizing products once they reopen.

“People want to know that they can come in the door and have their child with them and not worry about who’s in front of me and who’s waiting on me,” she said.

Though Brenner said far-UVC light is “more than 99.9 percent” effective in inactivating germs, he warned against throwing all coronavirus caution to the wind.

“This is an add-on to everything else we do,” he said, emphasizing that handwashing and social distancing should still be practiced. “If we start rejecting all the lesson learned over the last couple of months, we’re asking for trouble.”

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