Death of Barry Bagels founder Barry Greenblatt will leave ‘big void’Written by Sarah Ottney | Editor in Chief | firstname.lastname@example.org
Regular customers at Barry Bagels on North Holland-Sylvania Road will almost certainly feel a void the next time they enter the shop.
Founder Barry Greenblatt, whose familiar smiling face could be found at the shop up to seven days a week, died July 31 at his home in Sylvania Township. He was 65.
Greenblatt, who was known for his genial personality and business ethics, was still heavily involved in the day-to-day operation of the 42-year-old business, said family spokesperson Jim Nusbaum, CEO of Barry Bagels Franchise Holding.
Most people who met him felt an instant connection, Nusbaum said.
“He’s the kind of guy you met once and you felt like you had a friend for life,” he said. “He made you feel special. He was really incredible in that way.”
Over the years, Barry Bagels grew into one of Toledo’s iconic eateries, known for its fresh bagels baked daily throughout the day — many baked by Greenblatt himself.
“He was very involved, still making bagels, still working the counter,” Nusbaum said. “He was an incredibly hard worker and incredibly good with customers. He was very loyal to his customers and to his employees. Very kind, very generous.”
Greenblatt’s son, company president Mark Greenblatt, is the same way, Nusbaum said.
“He’s the same as Barry. Very, very involved on a day-to-day basis,” he said.
Greenblatt, a native of Detroit, moved to Toledo as a young man. He and a partner opened the first Barry Bagels location — then called The Bagel Place — at the corner of Sylvania Avenue and Holland-Sylvania Road in 1972. He later added locations in Maumee, Perrysburg, Westgate in Toledo and Ann Arbor. The newest location, in Lambertville, opened in May and is a template store for a planned series of franchise locations, Nusbaum said.
The first of five planned locations in the Columbus area is expected to open by the end of the year, and the company is in talks with other cities as well.
“He was very excited for the opportunity to grow the brand,” said Nusbaum, whose first job in high school was at Barry Bagels. He later reconnected with the family to help franchise the business.
Workers at the Sylvania location carried on with normal business Aug. 1, but said Barry’s absence was felt.
“He was here every day, every week. If you wanted to find him, he was here,” said baker and assistant manager Jared Becker, who called Greenblatt not only his boss but also his friend.
Becker said he would miss Greenblatt’s one-liners the most. He would say “Really?” all the time, for example, he said.
“He was a real solid guy. He cared about his employees,” Becker said. “Most places you don’t get to know your boss. Once you got his respect, he started to lean on you and treat you like a friend, not an employee.”
“Barry was the most driven, loving and witty man I know,” employee Courtney Selvey wrote, too overcome with emotion to speak. “He took me under his wing and treated me like family. I will love and miss him beyond words.”
Friends in the restaurant community are just as shocked and saddened by the news of Greenblatt’s death as his customers and employees.
George Mancy, managing partner of Mancy’s Italian Grill, said he and many others are heartbroken by the loss.
“To everyone walking in the door at the Sylvania Barry Bagels, it was a big smile and ‘Hello, how are you? How are the kiddos? What can I get you?’” Mancy said. “Whether it was someone who went in there once or someone who stopped in once a week, he’s just been a big part of the community. I think everyone’s heart is broken.”
Toledo food blogger Josh Wagy chose Barry Bagels as the first feature in his series of videos highlighting local restaurants when he launched Toledo food blog Smash Toledo last year.
“That’s the No. 1 thing I’m asked for when I go out of town: ‘I need a dozen salt bagels,’ or ‘I need a dozen everything bagels. Don’t show up here unless you have bagels,’” Wagy told Toledo Free Press at the time. “When I’m not in Toledo for a long period of time, you do crave it.”
“Barry was a great man,” Wagy said. “He was a king in Toledo’s food scene. It seemed like he knew everyone when you went into the Holland-Sylvania store for lunch. He always took a second to say hi and ask what was going on with you. His son Mark is a chip off the old block and brings the same kindness and humor to all their loyal customers. He will be dearly missed.”
Greenblatt is survived by his wife, Judie; son, Mark; daughters Mindy Streem and Marnie Sulzer; and eight grandsons.
“He was brilliant and kind and loyal and fun, and he’s going to be deeply missed,” Nusbaum said. “It will leave a big void for certain.”
Toledo Free Press News Editor Danielle Stanton contributed to this report.