Match Made in Heaven Results in New Ownership for Iconic Bialy’s Bagels

Jews have a word to describe the preordained meeting of two individuals. It’s beshert, and the Yiddish term usually is reserved for the ancient practice of matchmaking, but its use with respect to the recent sale of Bialy’s Bagels is inescapable.

There had been murmurings that the longtime owners of Bialy’s Bagels (2267 Warrensville Ctr. Rd., ​216-371-1088) had been on the hunt for a suitable buyer, a terrifying proposition for fans of this 50-year-old institution. The year was 1966 when Terry Skolnick, a New York transplant, opened up his iconic bagel store in University Heights, a neighborhood chosen for its proximity to Jewish customers. For decades, the shop has been operated by Skolnick’s daughter and son-in-law Ellen and Mark Osolin, but the time had come for them to switch gears.

For the past six years, twin sisters Rachel and Sarah Gross have been on a mission of their own to open a Cleveland bagel shop. Inspired by time spent at their uncle’s bagel shop in North Carolina, the women have been looking for the ideal location for what would become Buster’s Bagels, a tribute to an older brother who passed away in 2003. Along the way, the pair launched Clover Road Cream Cheese, a gourmet product that could be found at North Union Farmer’s Markets around town.

Thanks to a little bit of tennis court gossip, the women learned that the owners of Bialy’s were trying to sell. A months-long negotiation culminated with a sale of the business, an outcome that can only be described as beshert for a pair of sisters who were born on Bushnell Road, just feet from the fragrant bagel shop.

“We used to come here in our strollers every week,” says Rachel, her bagel earrings swinging with every word.

Since the sale, the Grosses have been working alongside Ellen and Mark to ensure a seamless transition both with respect to the business end of things as well as the chewy side. Also easing the changeover is a rock-solid staff of longtime employees, adds Sarah.

“Some have been here for 20 years and they’re not going anywhere,” she promises.

The distinguished shop’s stock-in-trade is the classic New York-style water bagel. Fresh, malty dough is made seven days a week and allowed to ferment overnight. The bagels are shaped, quickly boiled in water and baked. Bialy’s sells approximately 20 different varieties, including the classic and quickly vanishing onion-topped bialy, but the best seller by a wide margin is the mish-mosh, the orthodox name for what is often labeled an “everything" bagel.

These bagels land at nearby coffee shops and restaurants like Jack’s Deli and Corky and Lenny’s, but also large institutions like area hospitals and universities. Admirers of the bagels should see no changes with respect to the quality of the product, but one might soon see an expansion of the offerings.

“We have the blessings of the previous owners to expand the options here, so we’re really excited about that,” says Rachel, citing toasted bagels, bagels with schmears, and breakfast sandwiches as likely options. “Especially since Bruegger's Bagels closed at Cedar and Green, we have gotten a lot of requests for mish-mosh bagels toasted with cream cheese.”

A new display case that merges all bagel styles into one tall case and tightened up hours of operation (5:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. seven days) are also on order.

As for Ellen and Mark Osolin, the passing of the torch to the Gross sisters is the best possible outcome.

"We are thrilled to pass the business to born-and-bred Cleveland sisters,” notes Ellen. “We wish them nothing but success in the future. We hope all our customers will continue to support Bialy’s, and hope they will bring in some new customers as well."
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Douglas Trattner

For 20 years, Douglas Trattner has worked as a full-time freelance writer, editor and author. His work on Michael Symon's "Carnivore," "5 in 5" and “Fix it With Food” have earned him three New York Times Best-Selling Author honors, while his longstanding role as Scene dining editor garnered the award of “Best...
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