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.
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“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
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
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.