New York’s famed H&H bagel joint closes down

By GIL STERN STERN SHEFLER, JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
July 5, 2011 06:07

An empty counter left in the center of the near empty room was covered with labels of the varieties of bagel once on offer.

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H&H Bagels New York

H&H Bagels New York_311. (photo credit: Gil Shefler)

NEW YORK – Curious passersby paused on Sunday morning outside the vacant store where the famed H&H Bagels once stood, peeking through the tainted windows of the former bakery that until just recently had attracted lovers of the ovalshaped bread from near and far.

“Whoa, I can’t believe it,” said Michael Blumenthal, a New Jersey native who hadn’t heard the news that the establishment had shuttered earlier in the week. “It’s an institution. I used to love coming to this place. I tried to bring my friend here today and it’s closed.”

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Blumenthal may have been one of the last of H&H’s many aficionados to find out about its demise. When news broke that the Upper West Side location of the bakery was about to fold a few weeks ago –a less iconic branch remains open to business in Hell’s Kitchen- it was carried by almost every media outlet in the city.

For a short time it seemed like an outpouring of public grief might manage to save the place whose insolvent owner had fallen on hard times. Petitions were signed and paeans written in praise of its delectable product that has been featured on television shows like Seinfeld and Sex and the City.

But on Wednesday those somewhat unrealistic hopes were dashed when H&H was finally closed, several days after its owner initially said it would.

On Sunday, precious little remained of the once-proud Upper West Side institution.

Outside, the familiar H&H Bagels sign was long gone, taken down around the time the news was first announced. Inside, the walls and floors lay bare stripped of almost everything.

Still, a few telltale objects hinting to its former glory remained. An empty counter left in the center of the near empty room was covered with labels of the varieties of bagel once on offer including sour dough and blueberry, pumpernickel and cina-raisin.

Meanwhile, a steady trickle of pedestrians stopped outside the Broadway and West 80th Street location to see what had become of it before moving on.

“All I can say about H&H was that they were the best in the city, as far as I’m concerned,” said Barbara Priest. “Yes, it’s been a neighborhood place and they were more expensive than most bagels, but I’m really sorry that they’re gone. Really sorry.”

Less nostalgic was Harriet Feldman, a senior citizen with a “good Irish name,” she quipped. Feldman, a long-time Upper West Side denizen who gave her age as “unlisted,” pointed out that the neighborhood still had several other bakeries with bagels, which she said were just as good as the ones made by H&H.

“I usually get ones at Fairways,” she admitted.

On Sunday, a torrential summer rain poured down from above on the streets of New York – the first since the Upper West Side H&H had closed – but the skies had not fallen. Just across the street from the former location of H&H, customers crammed into Zabar’s, another Upper West Side institution serving ethnically Jewish food, where they noshed on delicacies like bagel and lox.

And at the New York Sports Club located just above where H&H once stood, business was also as usual. Seen from the street through the gym’s large windows, its members ran tirelessly on treadmills seemingly indifferent to the fate of the bagel store that once lay below.


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