104-Year-old Pauline Kossar Visits Lower East Side Bialy Bakery

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Here’s a photo sent along by the team of Kossar’s Bialys. During the weekend, 104-year-old Pauline Kossar of Miami, Florida stopped by the Grand Street store. Here she is with current co-owner David Zablocki in the newly remodeled shop. Pauline’s husband, Morris, opened the retail business as Mirsky and Kossar’s Bakery in 1936 on Pitt St. Apparently bialys keep you young.

Rabbi Declines to Restore Kosher Certification at Kossar’s Bialys

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Tablet columnist (and local resident) Marjorie Ingall wrote an entertaining and interesting piece on the return of Kossar’s Bialys. Her story is based on last weekend’s panel discussion at the Museum of Eldridge Street, which included Kossars’ co-owner Evan Giniger. Deep in the article, there’s some news regarding the rejuvenated shop’s kosher certification.

When Giniger and David Zablocki purchased the business in 2013, they decided to institute Saturday hours. A local rabbi, Shmuel Fishelis, agreed to maintain Kossars’ kosher status under an arrangement in which Giniger’s share of the company was temporarily transferred to Zablocki (a non-Jew) before Shabbos.  In an interview earlier this month, Giniger told us he would soon be sitting down with Fishelis to discuss restoring the certification. But during the panel discussion, Giniger said the rabbi balked. Here’s an excerpt from Tablet’s story:

The original Kossar’s wasn’t kosher, but one of the successive families that bought the store was Orthodox; they got certification from a local rabbi. “But we can’t sell only bagels and bialys anymore,” Giniger said. “And we can’t afford to be closed on Saturdays.” … But the other concerns were tougher. The local rabbi’s certification doesn’t hold a lot of power outside the neighborhood, and Giniger wants to do wholesale and online sales. Larger agencies that certify kashrut “wouldn’t even talk to us, because they said they’d get backlash.” … Since Kossar’s started making its own cream cheese, and got a grill for eggs and babka French toast, the original rabbi-from-the-block announced, in Giniger’s words, “I can’t certify you now, because your operation is more complicated. My higher-ups won’t approve.”

Giniger went on to say he wants “desperately to serve every member of my community.” But:

The Lower East Side is no longer an Orthodox community… It serves a lot of different communities. It’s one of the last Manhattan neighborhoods in transition; it’s old and new at the same time.

More than anything else, the Kossar’s team wants to make sure the historic bialy business has a future — on the Lower East Side and beyond. For this reason, they say, there are tough decisions to be made about how the store is operated.

Inside Kossar’s: Here’s What You Need to Know About Tomorrow’s Reopening

367 Grand St.

367 Grand St.

Judging from the stream of passersby pressing their noses against the glass, people are pretty excited about the relaunch of Kossar’s Bagels & Bialys.  After a four month renovation project, the 80-year-old Lower East Side institution is all set to fling open its doors at 6 o’clock tomorrow morning.

We got the grand tour last night and spoke with co-owner Evan Giniger about the revamped store. The $500,000 project is part of a larger plan to turn the company into a global brand.

In some ways, Kossar’s is no different than it’s ever been. The bialys should taste exactly like the ones you enjoyed before Giniger and partner Dave Zoblocki temporarily closed the shop at 367 Grand St. last September. But the place looks a whole lot different.

Interior photos by Melissa Hom/courtesy of Kossar's.

Interior photos by Melissa Hom/courtesy of Kossar’s.

The new space features white subway tile, bright lighting and marble countertops. There’s a big window between the retail operation and the kitchen, so you can watch the bialy bakers at work. Most important for customers, the menu has been vastly expanded.

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Interior photos by Melissa Hom/courtesy of Kossar’s.

As you’ve probably heard. Kossar’s is now offering a schmear to go along with your bialy and bagels. House made cream cheese in a variety of flavors are available, as well as peanut and almond butter and hummus. You can order a sandwich with smoked salmon, smoked trout, sable or white fish salad. In addition to traditional Jewish deli-style offerings, there are some modern takes. One sandwich that caught our eye features sliced nova, parsley and dill cream cheese, pickled beets and salmon roe on a pumpernickel bagel. There are even egg sandwiches from the grill, pletzel pizzas and babka french toast.

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Interior photos by Melissa Hom/courtesy of Kossar’s.

Many of the changes you won’t notice at all. They involved a complete revamp of the electrical and plumbing infrastructure. Pretty much everything had to be replaced in both the bialy kitchen on the main floor and the bagel manufacturing space in the basement.

As for the new look, Giniger said every effort was made to pay tribute to the bakery’s past, but in all truthfulness, there wasn’t much to save. “Some people might have considered (the old storefront charming), but it probably crossed the line into run-down 20 years ago.” Old-style lighting fixtures and other design elements, he said, are meant to give the space “a feel as it might have existed 50 years ago.”

Since purchasing the business in 2013, Giniger said he’s been amazed at the love that exists for the bialy. “I’ve been getting calls and texts from all over the world,” he noted. But the less popular cousin of the bagel has never gone mainstream outside of New York. Through a revamped website and a robust marketing campaign, the Kossar’s team plans to change that. Mentioning the resurgence of the Jewish deli, Giniger said, “It feels like the time is right” for the bialy to take its rightful place in the larger culinary world.

A lot of people have asked whether menu prices will be increasing. Most items are staying the same, while the cost of a bialy will rise 10 cents to $1/each. Giniger said the shop will remain kosher, although the kosher certification will probably not be restored on the first day back in business.

It’s been a long and painstaking project. But overall, Giniger said, “I’m really excited about the rebirth of this iconic institution. We really worked hard to get it right for our customers.”

You can see the full menu below.

 

Bring on the Schmear! Kossar’s Bialys Reopens Friday

Photo via Kossar's Instagram.

Photo via Kossar’s Instagram.

Your wait for the return of Kossar’s Bialys is almost over. The newly renovated space at 367 Grand St. reopens to the public on Friday, after more than four months.

In the New York Times today, Florence Fabricant has a mini preview:

The working bakery in the back is now enclosed in glass, and the storefront is no longer drab, newly decked out with subway tiles and white marble. And now you can order your bialy sliced and filled with cream cheese, peanut butter, hummus and even whitefish salad, which was never offered before. Kossar’s is also making its own cream cheeses, labeled (and trademarked) as Schmears, in flavors like lox, vegetable, horseradish and everything bagel. The bialys have gone on a flavor trip, too, with sun-dried tomato, olive and apple-cinnamon. There are also pletzls (onion flatbreads), challahs and babkas. Sandwiches like the Yenta, with whitefish salad and pastrami salmon, are available for the first time.

We’ll have much more on the relaunch of Kossar’s Bagels& Bialys tomorrow.

Kossar’s Closes For Six Weeks For Renovation, Rebranding

Kossar’s Will Remain Kosher, Even With Saturday Hours

It’s open Saturdays, but is it still kosher? That’s the question asked by several readers following our recent item on Kossar’s Bialys.

Kossar’s Bialys Now Open Saturdays

For the past 15 years, Kossar’s Bialys has been closed on Shabbos, reopening after the sun goes down Saturday evening.   But earlier this month, that all changed.

New Owners Taking Over Kossar’s Bialys

It’s been the talk of Grand Street for the past week or so — now the word is out.  Kossar’s Bialys, the legendary Lower East Side bakery, has been sold.