The 25 Year Bagel Routine

The 25 Year Bagel Routine

There's a local bagel shop, Skokie's New York Bagel and Bialy, that I visit on a regular basis. By regular I mean twice, maybe three times a month, often with kids in tow or on my way back from a morning drop off.

They are always open and there's always a decent line. Wasn't it Yogi Berra who said "Nobody goes there because it's always too crowded?" The shop is small with no frills. Kitchen in back, bagels and packaged cream cheese, lox and orange juice in front. A small coffee maker and a few newspapers. There's even a tiny television behind the counter.  No tables, carry out only.

The staff is efficient, sometimes a bit gruff. But the bagels are fantastic.

On a recent Saturday morning I was next in line for bagels when a man walked up next to me. He was alone, looked to be mid 50s in an oxford shirt and khakis. Immediately the woman behind the counter said, "Where were you last week?" as she reached down and placed a full order of bagels and cream cheese on the counter. As he reached for his wad of cash he explained that he was sick the prior week. When I asked he said he has been coming to the shop every Saturday morning at 9:30 for 25 years, with smiles and confirmation from the staff.

As he walked away I couldn't help but wonder what were the bagels for? His children (if he has them), for work, for  a religious gathering or club? Does he live in the neighborhood?

I was struck by the idea that someone could stick to a routine for a quarter century. Other than waking up and going to bed I can't think of anything I have done with that type of consistency for 25 years. I also marvel at the sense of community represented by an "order ready" customer and concern when he's not there. I'd like to learn more about the relationship between owner and customer and his place in the community.

Which should be easy to do on any Saturday morning at 9:30.

Have you ever stuck to a routine like Saturday bagels?

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