There’s a popular, family-owned bagel shop or bagel factory in Omaha that was out of commission for 10 months due to a fire that destroyed the place and even though the family, the Brezacks, almost immediately set about rebuilding, delays of one kind of another kept the new Bagel Bin from reopening. That left its die-hard customers, of which there are many, without their fix for the New York-style bagels that the family, who came to Omaha from Long Island, serves up. The following article for The Reader (www.thereader.com) appeared in the midst of the Brezacks’ frustration with the red tape that was preventing them from reopening. Since the piece appeared on Dec. 1, 2010, the Bagel Bin has indeed reopened and its bagelmaniacs are reportedly flocking there in record numbers. Even though the Bagel Bin has been around for 30-plus years in my hometown, I had to admit to the owners that I had never eaten there, and so one of my must-dos this weekend is to stop by and indulge in some of their famous bagels, which for my taste and for a lot of other folks are a perfect food group unto themselves. The place even makes authentic New York style pizza, another perfect food group. Can’t go wrong there.
The Much Anticipated Return of the Bagel Bin
©by Leo Adam Biga
Originally appeared in The Reader (www.thereader.com)
The words on the hand printed sign affixed to the glass doors of the rebuilt Bagel Bin, 1215 South 119th Street, seem benign enough. Behind the hopeful words though is the bittersweet story of a family-owned kosher bakery that went up in flames Jan. 7.
The three-alarm blaze left a total loss of the beloved business the Brezack family opened there in 1978. It meant starting from scratch and a touchstone neighborhood place being out of commission.
Owner Sue Brezack, whose late husband Joel started the Bin, says she and her family were inundated with expressions of concern from people: “Anything we can do for you? We hope you’re coming back.”
The decision to rebuild was easy for her and sons David and Scott, who’ve run the business with her since Joel’s death in 2004
“We realize we’re kind of an icon in this area. Everybody meets here,” she says.
For weeks though the reopening has been pushed back by pending city inspector approvals and contractor delays.
“It’s been a long year,” she says. “It puts us into a stress mode because you think you’re going to open on a date and then somebody throws a monkey wrench in. Something has to be done, then it has to be ordered and installed. Then you need to get the permit.”
“Everything’s done. We have enough supplies we could open today,” David said two weeks ago.
“We keep telling everybody, it’s not us,” says Sue. “The codes are crazy.”
Rather than risk disappointing people again, she says, “We’re not going to commit to any dates.”
All the while the rabid fan base, evidenced by a Rebuild Bagel Bin Facebook page numbering hundreds of friends with comments of support, press the owners for a firm relaunch. Regular customers call or email, some stopping by to gauge progress and kibitz. Members of the Monday Breakfast Bunch, who’ve met there for years, peek in, reserving their spots for when the joint’s up and running again.
“We love seeing them as they come up here,” Sue says. “It’s great to know they’re all around. If we’re in any other big city and we had this fire I don’t think anybody would have been that upset. People would have just moved on. But Omaha’s such a wonderful place. People are very caring here.”
Her customers’ devotion, she says, “makes me cry.”
She and Joel felt Omaha’s embrace when they made a leap of faith in 1977 to relocate here from Long Island, New York. She says “the community kind of came together” for them, a young Jewish couple who invested everything in the start-up. It’s remained a staple in the Jewish community, though most customers are Christian.
Why Omaha? Sue did part of her growing up here when her father was hired as chief programmer at Strategic Air Command. After she moved to New York she and Joel, a Brooklyn native, married and started their family. On vacations, Joel fell in love with the city’s quiet and its slow pace, except he couldn’t find a decent bagel in town. That deficit, he figured, could be his gain, and so he learned the bagel biz inside-out before moving Sue and the family to the Midwest to become bagel evangelists-entrepreneurs. They had the territory to themselves, before competition arrived, but as David says, “we’re still here.”
“We found our niche here,” adds Sue.
The couple’s three sons were enlisted right from the start. When Joel died David and Scott were already helping run things. Their brother Glenn is in construction and he finished out the rich new interior at the remade Bin. The spiffy new digs has some worried the homey old charm will be no more but David insists, “nothing’s changed.”
Feelings run deep, say the Brezacks, because it’s an old-school place where repeat customers are known by name and preference. As soon as they pull in the parking lot their favorite bagel’s toasted and coffee’s poured. Regulars love being pampered almost as much as exchanging good-natured barbs with the owners and counter staff.
“The people are just great, they really are,” says Sue.
All that’s left to reopen is the city’s final approval. Well, that and “we need our oven lit by the rabbi”, says Sue, adding, “But we can’t have him do that until we get the OK.”
Off-the-record, Dec. 1 became the new target date.
“It’s going to be a crazy place,” says David.
For updates call 334-2744 or visit www.bagelbin.com.
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- Bagel Schmagel (thegypsycook.wordpress.com)
- bagels! (eatsleepreadlove.wordpress.com)