Bagel bakers are
back in business
The closure of the venerable Hawaiian Bagel shop and other competing bagel stops in Kakaako and downtown Honolulu over the past three years left a gaping hole in the morning routines of many.
The burning question depressed deli devotees were left to answer -- how to start the day without a schmeer and a smile?
The question need no longer be pondered as the original owners of Hawaiian Bagel, Stephen and Mona Gelson, are back.
They've opened "This Is It Bakery & Deli" at 443 Cooke St. across from Fisher Hawaii.
"Today's the first day," said co-owner Stephen Gelson yesterday.
The Hawaiian Bagel name and bagels went to Zippy's Restaurants' Napoleon's Bakery operations when the company was purchased in late 1998. The Halekauwila Street store closed with the expiration of its lease at the end of July 1999 and ABC Stores converted the building to warehouse and office use.
Gelson and other Hawaiian Bagel employees have been working for Zippy's, "But I missed being in business, working for myself," he said.
Familiar items appear on the "This Is It" menu, for instance the "Rossi's special" and "Pam's creation" breakfast bagels. They are named after Hawaiian Bagel alumnae Rossine Valentine and Pam Pavao, whose smiling faces were behind the counter handing out free samples to customers yesterday.
Other familiar selections include brownies and pastries, Turkey Pastrami sandwiches, Mediterranean favorites such as tabouli and hummus and specialty breads such as challah and New York Rye. Alas, the menu bears no knishes to nosh.
The bagel recipe is, "a very good formula," said Gelson, "it's a real old-fashioned chewy bagel."
Boiled? "Absolutely. Boiled, not steamed," he said, as proven by a cook's tour, which also revealed a large, clean, warm bakery operation with equipment standing at the ready to supply Gelson's planned pita bread wholesaling operation.
Following months of construction, the Gelsons flung open the doors to the dreary weather and eager customers early yesterday, "We've already had quite a few (former customers) this morning," he said. They'd apparently noticed the construction or heard about the place through word of mouth, he guessed.
In addition to street parking there are eight stalls in the back, Gelson said.
This Is It will be open from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, "but as long as the big blue door is up, we're still doing something inside and we'll serve customers," Mona Gelson said.
Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin.
Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle,
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210,
Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached