He really was the bagel boss. Melvin Rosner, who founded Long Island’s Bagel Boss chain, died on April 25 from lung disease. The Massapequa resident was 82.
Rosner, whom everyone called Mel, considered himself “the bagel innovator, not an imitator.” His first store, on South Oyster Bay Road in Hicksville, was the first bagel shop on Long Island to stay open 24 hours a day. It remains one of the only area bagel stores where, said his son Jerry, “you can get a schmear in the middle of the night.”
Other innovations have been universally adopted: Rosner said he was the first with such newfangled bagel flavors as cinnamon-raisin swirl, honey-whole wheat, black Russian (pumpernickel with raisin) and chocolate chip. The “flagel” is a registered trademark of Bagel Boss.
Rosner started his professional career as a bialy maker and, at the age of 20, married into a bialy dynasty. His first wife Gloria Kass’s father, grandfather and great-grandfather were bialy bakers with roots in Bialystok, Poland. (Gloria died in 2003.) As a young man, Rosner worked at such hallowed bakeries as Kossar’s on the Lower East Side, making not only bialys but also bulkas and pletzels (all of which are made with a dough similar to bagel dough but, unlike bagels, are not boiled before being baked).
In 1975, Rosner borrowed enough money from his mother and brother to purchase a small store in Hicksville called Bagel Junction. He rechristened the store Bagel Boss so he would be the first bagel store listed in the Yellow Pages. Soon thereafter, a competitor opened Bagel Alley. No matter: Bagel Alley is no longer, but “Bagel Boss” graces the awnings of 11 stores on Long Island and two in Manhattan.
If Rosner descended from a dynasty, he also founded one. His son Jerry of Wantagh owns the original Hicksville store; his son Adam of Woodbury owns Bagel Boss in Hewlett and oversees nine Long Island franchise locations; his son Randy of Syosset operates two Bagel Bosses in Manhattan.
Jerry Rosner characterized his father as a perfectionist. “He was old-school. Because he started out as a worker, he was a hard boss to work for. Every bagel had to be perfect.” Although he never lost his preference for the bialy, Melvin Rosner revered the bagel. “Even in a depression,” he would say, “people can come to us for a bagel and they are getting a meal.”
Rosner is survived by his wife, Mary, three sons, 10 grandchildren (five of whom are in the business) and two great-grandchildren.