For years, the two dominant bagel stores in the West Village and Chelsea were two Murray’s Bagels opened by Adam and Matt Pomerantz, launched in 1996. When the two brothers split, Matt and his partner Dan Pace ran Zucker’s Bagels in Chelsea and Adam operated Murray’s Bagels in the West Village. And for years, those two bagel shops prevailed for many local residents.
But in 2023, an abundance of bagel shops have been opening in these two downtown Manhattan neighborhoods in proximity to these two stores including: 1) ARK Bagels on 8th Avenue in Chelsea, 2) The Bagel Pub on Sixth Avenue, 3) Bagel RX on 7th Avenue, 4) Hudson Bagels on Hudson Street is coming soon.
Established bagel shops are thriving, such as Zucker’s Bagels, which now operates seven shops, all in Manhattan. And owner Matt Pomerantz strives to be innovative such as devising a collaborative sandwich with Tribeca restaurant Smyth Tavern and featured wild salmon from Bristol Bay, Alaska.
Bagel shops are having a resurgence in the downtown area, due to landlords being more flexible, and a clientele looking for breakfast or an inexpensive lunch.
Why are the West Village and Chelsea going through a bagel explosion? Might it be that in a discomforting, anxious time bagels are the ultimate comfort food, tasty and filling, though high in calories and not particularly nutritious.
Adam Pomerantz, owner of Murray’s Bagels, noted that a number of factors are at work, including, “We’re in a foodie culture now, where bagels, like pizza, are considered fun food.”
Landlords Are Open to Food Purveyors
But in addition, post-pandemic, landlords have lowered rents, become more flexible to food operators with their ventilation systems and are happy to sign up new food tenants, he said.
Adam Pomerantz, who also owns Leo’s Bagels in the Financial District, said when people order a dozen bagels, its margins are decent but tight. “When you add cream cheese, butter, cold cuts or smoked fish, the profit margin rises,” he said.
New Yorkers Have Always Had a Love Affair with Bagels
Sam Silverman, who runs New York Bagel Fest, a trade show for the bagel industry that takes place October 21 and 22 and also runs bagel tours, said the bagel explosion stems from New Yorkers “love affair and insatiable appetite for bagels that dates back over 150 years.” He described bagels as “customizable, convenient and affordable.”
Post-pandemic, Silverman cited, that people “are craving familiarity and comfort more than ever. Bagels represent a taste of normalcy.”
Moreover, Silverman cited that social media is playing a role in the continued strength of bagel shops. People take photographs of their “rainbow bagels” (which are topped with Funfetti-flavored cream cheese and garnished with sprinkles) and circulate them on Instagram because they are so colorful.
Having new entries in the bagel retail business strengthens New York, Silverman suggested. He noted that Bagel Pub “has the best cream cheese selection in the city. They may even push the older establishments like Murray’s and Zucker’s to continue innovating.”
“If you can’t keep up with the times, you become history,” Silverman pointed out.
Despite the influx of new bagel places, all of them could prosper, just as on Restaurant Row, where many eateries flourish. “Shops on the same block or even literally next door to each other can do quite well by themselves,” Silverman observed.
At Murray’s Bagel, which is still thriving after 27 years, many regulars start their day with a buttered bagel and coffee, so much so, that the counter guys have their orders ready when they walk in.
Bagels Are a Part of a Foodie Culture
Murray’s Bagels also provides its own mail order via Federal Express, delivered next day but that only constitutes about 5% of its overall revenue.
Will several new rivals cut into Murray’s Bagels revenue? Adam Pomerantz is not deterred by the competition. “Murray’s Bagels hasn‘t been around for nearly 30 years for nothing,” he retorted. He’s confident that residents will check out the competition and many will return to Murray’s.
He recalled that when he opened back in 1996 there was a Bagel Buffet nearby and another bagel place in the meatpacking district that closed.
Something about bagels satisfies people, Adam Pomerantz suggested. “I think it’s a round bread with a hole in it. It brings a smile to someone’s face.” And post pandemic, with problems multiplying around the planet, there’s something to be said for that.