A good bagel – let alone a bialy worthy of the name – is hard enough to find nowadays. And it was set to get even harder in Brooklyn, as the borough's oldest bagel bakery, Coney Island Bialys and Bagels, was teetering on the edge of being closed down - and in fact was shuttered for a time in September.
But in a last-minute reprieve, bagel lovers of all backgrounds will continue to enjoy the authentic – and kosher – taste of a real New York-style bialy, thanks to the intervention of two cab drivers, who are buying the store.
By the way: the two owners of the quintessentially Jewish bread market are themselves not Jewish – but Pakistani Muslims.
Zafaryab Ali and his business partner, Peerada Shah, were longtime fans of the store; Ali had worked at the store for over a decade during the 1990s, and was to hear that the recession had hurt the store badly enough that its owners, the Ross (originally Rosenzweig) family, had decided that the time had come to close down the store, established in 1920 by Polish Jewish immigrant Morris Rosenzweig.
If there was an irony in a Muslim making kosher bialys and bagels – under rabbinical supervision, which the two are currently seeking – Shah doesn't see it. “I don’t even think about it,” Shah told reporters, “I just look at this as a business opportunity.” Ali concurs: ““I’m happy I can take care of this store, turn a profit and make customers happy,” he said.
Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz wished the pair a “mazal tov,” and came around for some samples. Speaking to reporters, Markowitz called the cross-cultural event “an only in New York story” that “expresses the true spirit of this city.”