After a week of uncertainty about when exactly H&H would close, city marshals seized the building on Wednesday, and the landlord slapped a sign on the front proclaiming “Store for Rent”. Just like that, a neighborhood fixture since 1972 was gone. West Side Rag reader Gavan sent us photos of the sad store yesterday, including the shot above of the torn-out interior, and a picture (at the bottom of this post) of the marshal’s notice.
Will H&H open elsewhere in the neighborhood? An H&H manager told us that was a distinct possibility, although owner Helmer Toro has quite a bit on his plate right now — including massive tax and back-rent debts. If you’re really jonesing for an H&H bagel, you can still get them at food shops like Citarella throughout the neighborhood, or at the company’s remaining store on 46th Street and 12th Avenue. But who wants to schlep down there?
Ever since the news came out, we’ve been compiling quotes about H&H from over the years and particularly from the past week, as people rhapsodized about the shop’s 39 years in the neighborhood. Here’s a baker’s dozen for your enjoyment:
“I was more or less teethed on H&H bagels. I’ve spent cumulative days waiting in line on H&H’s sawdust-covered floor, watching bakers fill the Plexiglas bagel boxes and strategizing to pick the freshest variety. I’ve gasped as the price has climbed from 90 cents to a staggering $1.40 for a single bagel, then gone ahead and bought a bag anyway.” Josh Nathan-Kazis * “Did you know that every night a truck pulls up to H&H Bagels and pumps about a ton of flour into the ground? The air is absolutely amazing.” Joe Fox, You’ve Got Mail * “Oh how I will miss your hot, fat cinnamon raisin bagels at 2am!!! Your stash of varied cream cheeses in the fridge and every manner of lox!!! Oh how I will miss determining the most freshly made bagels by the smell from 3 blocks away. No everything bagel has ever tasted so good fresh out of the oven. I shall miss the freezer stocked with Nestle Toll House chipwiches. I shall miss the grouchy woman at the register. I shall miss walking out your front door with a full, warm brown bag (why does that sound so wrong?). H&H, my life is forever changed by your departure. WHY OH WHY HAVE YOU LEFT ME?????????????.” Rachel J. * “We’re losing everything that’s interesting about the neighborhood. Everything is a chain now. It used to be a quirky place to live, but it’s like being in a mall now. I guess we still have the park.” Norah Shaykin * “Cannot believe H&H is closing. An Upper West Side institution gone in a schwoop faster than you can schmear a #bagel.” Thomas Farley * “[A] Manhattanite friend of mine who often visited family in England used to have her cab wait outside H&H while she bought hot bagels, then wrapped them individually in plastic and foil (this was in the pre-9/11 days before metal detectors). When she got across the pond, she would find friends and neighbors in a tiny English village eagerly awaiting a fresh, warm H&H bagel to go with their tea.” Rick Schindler * “This is like a death in the family.” Arthur Rand * “Customer service at H & H was minimal, from its no-toasting policy to its refusal to take credit cards. The tax-fraud conviction of its owner, Helmer Toro, last year is no small thing, either. Even so, there was nothing quite like those rounds of dough traveling before your eyes from the silver mass of the oven to your own paper bag, the yellow half-light filtering under the door long after the neighbors had gone to bed. Loyalty to such things is hard to shake.” Alexandra Schwartz * “Will be sad to lose H&H uptown as ico &4 scent of baking but not for fat airy inedible bagels.I buy chewy little mini bagels closer to real.” Gael Greene * ”Behind the cashier was the oven, and just then one of the bakers in his white uniform slid a wood platter into the maw of the oven, and removed a squadron of steaming plain bagels, which he dumped into a wire bin. My two cold coins were enough for a hot bit of sustenance. The bagel burned my numb fingers. I walked the rest of the way home with the warm dough permeating my senses.” Thomas Beller, Portrait of the Bagel as a Young Man * “It’s an institution, almost like a museum. Everybody dreams of their store being a destination, but this one really is a destination. You can literally get a hot bagel at 3 o’clock in the morning, and it literally comes out of the oven in front of you…I can really smell it right now. In a positive way” Upper West Side Councilwoman Gale Brewer * “If H&H goes, then nothing is permanent on the West Side.” Jeremy Burton * “[Setting: H&H Bagel Shop] (Kramer is shaping some dough and chewing gum – his gum falls into the dough. He starts looking for the gum, and starts extracting it from the dough. The manager is watching) MANAGER: Alright. That’s enough. You’re fired. KRAMER: Thank – you! (Gets his coat, and leaves).” Seinfeld, The Strike.