By Ed Hersh
Storied H&H Bagels, which closed on 80th at Broadway in 2011 and reopened on Columbus Avenue between 85th and 86th Streets in 2016, has gone through yet another reboot and reopened the Columbus location Monday with a major renovation and a new concept.
The store was closed for several weeks for construction and now features new brighter lighting, new floors and tiled walls, new tables and chairs, and an airy, friendly vibe. Modern high-tech bagel ovens have been installed. The menu has been streamlined but still features a wide variety of bagels along with spreads and salads. And on opening day, there was a steady stream of both local residents and students on lunch break coming in both to eat and check out the new digs.
But the biggest change, according to Ryan Klepper, recently installed as director of retail operations for the company (and a former director of operations at Tavern on the Green), is that this store will now serve as a flagship to “potentially franchise H&H across the country.”
In planning the renovation and food service, Klepper said, ‘’the emphasis is now on four things: speed, efficiency, cleanliness, and likeability.” The food preparation has been retooled to be more like an assembly line, where you select your bagel and your order is then put together in front of you… like Subway, Sweetgreen or Chipotle.
“What if bagels simply took the place of burritos?” Klepper asked. He told us it’s designed so you can see your food being prepared and give additional instructions to those making your order. “The goal is to take your order and fill it within 5 minutes. You have to be able to handle orders quickly even when there’s a rush.”
In fact, on this opening day, the friendly and gregarious Klepper frequently interrupted our conversation to greet customers and ask, “How long did it take for you to get your order?”
Of course, it is no longer owned by the original H&H on Broadway, which through several bankruptcies was split off to create “H&H Midtown East” years ago. Those owners operate this store and another on 2nd Avenue. They bought the rights in 2018 to use the simple “H&H Bagels” name, which this store carries.
Klepper says they are thrilled to be reopened after the pandemic and investing in this new space. It is currently open 7am to 3pm, but he says they’ll consider extending those hours if business warrants. And one day, we may see H&H Bagels cropping up in other cities.