Thing since Sliced Bread
to imagine, but 25 years ago, most Americans had never tried a
bagel. If you werent Jewish,
bagels were exotic and pretty much unknown; even if you were Jewish,
bagels were hard to come by if you were outside major metropolitan
areas. Bagels dont travel well: They go stale fast. As a
result, bagel bakeries tended to be located in smack-dab in urban
areas where they already had a market, ghettoizing of the cuisine.
The Lender family began changing that in 1962.
The family patriarch, Harry Lender, had been a pioneer thirty-five
years earlier. After immigrating from Lublin, Poland in 1927,
Harry wandered into the wilderness of New Haven, Connecticut where
he opened the first American bagel bakery outside of New York
Lender started out selling to predominantly Jewish customers from
his own bakery and distributing bagels to delicatessens and grocery
stores. However, New Haven being a relatively small place, his
bagels spread into other ethnic neighborhoods, and soon Italians,
Irish and Russians were also enjoying his roll with a hole.
But still the market
was limited geographically by the bagels short shelf life. The
next generation of Lenders, Harrys sons Murray and Marvin, discovered
that flash-freezing would keep bagels from going stale for months.
Some purists say grumpily that the Lenders also started messing with
the recipe to make it more acceptable to a mass audience that wasnt
used to the hard crunchy crust and chewy center that is the essence
of genuine bagelhood.
Lenders frozen product was like manna to bagel-lovers in the
hinterlands and helped convert a whole generation of gentiles to their
The Lender family sold the business to Kraft in 1986, which seemed
a perfect marriage with their Philadelphia Cream Cheese, but they
recently turned around and sold it to Kelloggs, which seems
to be trying to become the premiere player in the toaster food category
with Pop Tarts, Eggos, and a new toaster Pastry Swirl® they also
recently bought, presumably to cut counter the Pillsburys Toaster
Strudel. Who knows, maybe theyll take the next logical step
and buy the Sunbeam toaster company?