Rebirth of Bagels

Much missed Bagel Bin reopens Dec. 1

Coming soon. The words on the hand-printed sign affixed to the glass doors of the rebuilt Bagel Bin, at 1215 S. 119th St., seem benign enough. But behind the hopeful words 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 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. There was a lot of “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 the past several weeks the reopening was 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.” Then the Brezacks finally received the good news of a go-ahead Monday, Nov. 30, and at press time were slated to reopen Wednesday, Dec. 1. In the meantime the rabid fan base, evidenced by a Rebuild Bagel Bin Facebook page numbering hundreds of friends with comments of support, pressed the owners for a firm re-launch. Regular customers called or emailed, some stopping by to gauge progress and kibitz. Members of the Monday Breakfast Bunch, who’ve met there for years, peeked 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 slow pace, except he couldn’t find a decent bagel. That deficit, he figured, could be his gain. 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 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 had 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. With the city’s final approval clenched, there was just one matter of business left to tackle before reopening. “We need our oven lit by the rabbi,” says Sue. Bagel Bin will reopen for business Wednesday, Dec. 1. Store hours are Sun. 5 a.m.-2 p.m., Mon. 5:30 a.m.-1 p.m. and Tues.-Sat. 5:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Call 334.2744 or visit bagelbin.com.

posted at 08:35 pm
on Wednesday, December 01st, 2010

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