Rosemarie Occhino, a semi-retired civil service commission specialist, enters Seaford Bagels and orders her usual breakfast: an egg on whole wheat, butter on the side. On weekends, she splurges on a bacon and egg bagel sandwich. When asked why she loves being a regular, Occhino recalls the last night of her cruise to Hawaii, where she admitted to friends that she longed for her hometown bagel shop.
“I can’t wait to get to Seaford Bagel,” she said at the time, “and enjoy a bacon and egg on a bagel with that famous Seaford coffee.”
It was in 1993 that John Scanello and his childhood friends Claudio and Ralph Facchini decided to give their holding company, CRJ Trading Co., a home in Seaford. “We needed to find a bagel store location where we can use it as a warehouse in the back and a retail store in the front,” Scanello said.
Scanello and his partners did not expect the store to be busy due to its location, and were more concerned with buying bagel store ingredients at wholesale and selling them to clients. Twenty-five years later, the store with the hot-pink façade that looks like it belongs in Miami Beach rather than in Seaford, sells about 48,000 bagels a week.
“If the bagel store pays the mortgage, then we’ll see. It’s not going to make any money.” Scanello joked with his partners back when the store was first established. “And from day one, it was crazy. From day one — nuts.”
For the store’s 25th anniversary in April, it is selling bagels on Mondays and Tuesdays for 25 cents each. Even without that special discount, Scanello still tries to keep prices at a reasonable level, like $6.49 for a bagel with a quarter-pound of lox and cream cheese that comes with a side salad and a pickle.
“We just haven’t raised our prices as much over the years,” Scanello said,
Because CRJ has their warehouse on-site, Seaford Bagel makes their menu items from scratch. Workers start just after midnight preparing food for the daily 5 a.m. opening, with counter staff coming in around 4 a.m. to prepare for the day.
Virginia Glenn, Seaford Bagels’ manager, started working at the store in December 1993 after she emigrated from Argentina. Over the past 25 years, Glenn saw her customers grow up, have families, and even ask for employment.
“I know them since they were babies and now they are asking me for a job,” Glenn said. “It’s a family store. We know everybody.”
A customer, who rushed into the store before work, walked by as Scanello explained why Glenn is a great manager, and chimed in saying that Glenn is very friendly to customers. They all shared a laugh before Scanello continued.
“She leads by example,” Scanello said, “she makes sure that the staff treats customers as if they walked into their own living room.”
“When you are in a community for 25 years, you start to become part of the community,” Scanello said.
Seaford Bagels donates food regularly to local parent-teacher associations, the Knights of Columbus and other community organizations. On March 30, they fed the Seaford Chamber of Commerce before the chamber’s annual egg hunt.
Their bagels also find their way into the hands of residents in surrounding hamlets. John Dorsi, of Massapequa, said he goes out of his way just to get to Seaford Bagels for their food and hospitality.
“You get treated here like you are part of the family,” Dorsi said.
Before Occhino dug into her usual order, she compared the bagel shop to the famous TV show “Cheers.”
“It’s not the bar,” Occhino said, “but it’s the bagel shop where everybody knows your name.”
As Scanello explained, Occhino pushed him to install Wi-Fi into Seaford Bagels. Scanello said he is not tech savvy by any means, but learned to install a Wi-Fi network because of Occhino’s request. That gesture, he added, is an example of what Seaford Bagels stands for in the community.
“It’s about providing a stable working environment for our employees,” Scanello said, “providing THE neighborhood bagel store — and as long as we’re having fun, we’re going to keep doing it.”