A bagel shop in Bay Plaza Shopping Center, the last remaining ‘mom and pop’ operated store in the mall, has closed its doors for the last time.
Bagel Cafe, a 24-hour bagel shop which was located at 2214 Bartow Avenue, has closed after 25 years of business.
The beginning of the end for Bagel Cafe came when their lease expired and was not renewed by Prestige Properties in March.
Since the spring Bagel Cafe continued to operate at the location on a month-to-month basis, at a higher rent that was eventually rolled back in court. Efforts to renew the shop’s lease did not succeed.
In November, Bagel Cafe received the news it was dreading – that it would have to relocate outside the mall by Sunday, November 30.
Bagel Cafe owner Charles Maselli believes that Prestige Properties’ treated the longtime tenant poorly, with very little advance warning.
“It’s unfortunate that the Bronx not only loses a small business, but a thriving business landmark, in a country where small businesses are rapidly disappearing,” said Maselli, who grew up in the Bronx and remembers the many stores in Co-op City that have come and gone..
“However, we’ve had a great run, and I thank all the customers who supported me over the years, as well as everybody who signed petitions in support of the Bagel Cafe staying in business – it’s touching how people have reacted.”
In response to the prospect that Bagel Cafe was closing, over 3,000 petitions were signed by individuals saddened by the news, including Senator Jeff Klein, Councilman James Vacca, Assemblyman Michael Benedetto, Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson, Councilman Ritchie Torres and Congressman Eliot Engel.
“I’m not blowing this out of proportion – people are very upset about this,” said Maselli. “This isn’t how an establishment is supposed to be treated after 25 years.”
Prestige Properties has stood by its actions, however, claiming that Maselli’s shop had “failed to meet the highest standards consistent with a first class shopping experience” after requesting that he modernize and upgrade his shop, a request that Prestige Properties believes Maselli did not comply with.
Still, many of the Bagel Cafe faithful are sad to see it go. Longtime customer and Co-op City resident Julie Forman said he is going to miss his routines of going to Bagel Cafe before and after work, and more importantly, being treated like a friend instead of a customer.
“I’ve been going to this shop for as long as I can remember, and there has always been a sense of comfort and family here,” said Forman, who doesn’t know if he’ll ever find another bagel shop to replace it.
Another longtime customer, Dr. Alexander Gray, believes that there was no reason for the Bagel Cafe to be forced to leave.
“I always brought my wife and kids here – we always saw this as more of a family environment than a business,” said Gray.
“It’s always important for people to go to a place where they feel welcomed – where they don’t feel like just another customer or a dollar sign. Bagel Cafe was that place, along with 24-hour service. Where else can you get that?” he said.