We first wrote about the planned South Beach branch of On Monday we noted the shop would debut yesterday at 6 a.m., and that the first 50 customers would receive a half-dozen bagels and six-pack of bottled Brooklynized water. I showed up shortly after that hour and nabbed my freebies. Funny, I didn't see any of you there. Let it be said: The early bird catches the bagel.
It's a contemporary yet cozy store. The left side of the long, rectangular space is taken up by a glassed-in work area where the water is processed and where the bagels rise, boil, and bake. Above the glass walls are two television screens, one permanently tuned to The Honeymooners, the other to highlights of the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers. Tables and chairs take up the rest of the long entryway which leads to the retail section where customers go to get their bags of bagels to go (convenient plastic freezer bags are handed out for orders of a half-dozen or more).
Steven Fassberg, the President, CEO, and Founder of Brooklyn Water Bagels, was at the South Beach store when I visited (and so was partner Allen Susser). I asked how it was going so far.
"This is going to be a great addition to South Beach. We're confident that we're going to do very impressive numbers here. There is nobody in the state of Florida who makes this product except us; this is the first branch in Miami-Dade. We're getting requests from the Delano and all the big hotels on the Beach, Fisher Island Resorts...we can't even do wholesale yet. We can't keep up with the demand. Right now we're concentrating on retail. Once we start marketing and people find out about this place, we expect lines out the door and around the block. We've had success with every store we've opened so far."
How many stores is that? "This will be number seven. There are 19 units in construction all over the country. We're aiming for 20 units open in Florida by the end of this year."
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Besides bagels, there are soups (also made with Brooklyn water), bagel sandwiches of all sorts (including a nice array of egg-based ones for breakfast), and a lengthy lineup of flavored coffees (they roast their own beans, and should be opening up their own roasting plant in Delray within "the next 45 days." Also: Iced coffee made with coffee ice cubes, and da borough's signature drink: Egg creams made with Fox's U-bet chocolate syrup ("U-bet it's good!").
I ask Fassberg if his workers are properly trained in preparing a proper egg cream. "People under 25 don't even know what that is. You have to educate them and train them. And customers who remember the product don't necessarily remember how to make it. So there's remedial training on that throughout the day, no charge. We're also coming out with our own bottled bubbly Brooklyn water soon, which will be our seltzer line. We should be launching that in the next six months."
Bagels are $1.29 per, and come in over a dozen varieties. A half-dozen goes for $6.29, a bakers dozen (13) is $11.99. Egg sandwiches run $3.99 to $6.99 (with nova). "Bagelwiches,"with fillers running from whitefish salad to chicken salad to corned beef, are $6.79 to $8.99.
But, unlike the Delray branch of TOBWBC, there are no bialys sold here! "Bialys are an ethnic product. I'm a proud Jewish person from Brooklyn, but we're not trying to put this in a Jewish context. We're trying to make this a global brand -- we're actually working with China, Hong Kong right now -- and bialys are a very small ethnic segment. We leave it up to the franchisees whether they want it or not."