Great Barrington Bagel Company
In the Berkshires you can find heirloom tomatoes, artisanal cheese, pasture-raised beef... but can you find a real bagel? Thanks to the Great Barrington Bagel Company, the answer to that question is yes. “We’re making an authentic New York-style bagel. It’s a specialty,” says owner Bob Climo with pride.
Bob and Karen Climo are very conscious that they are not just the owners of a bagel shop and delicatessen, but that they are also the newest stewards of a favorite Berkshire institution. Six months ago, the Climos bought the Great Barrington Bagel Company from Marvin and Judy Lieberman, who opened the bagel shop in 1996.
Bob Climo trained at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts and then worked as a demonstration chef for Canyon Ranch. When Marvin Lieberman approached him about becoming manager at the Bagel Company eight years ago, Bob was ready for the change. “What really appealed to me was working so close to home, and being a part of a community, rather than traveling all over the country for a big corporation,” he explains.
As for the transition to ownership, Bob says, “it has been a learning curve. But for the last eight years I have had great guidance under Marvin and Judy about how to run the business, why things happen a certain way, and how to build relationships within the community. What I learned was that people want consistency. They want to know the people who are serving them and where the products are coming from.”
With that in mind, the Climos have made sure the core of the business remains the same. “We offer a fresh product; we make everything to order and we make everything we can—from bagels to chicken stock—from scratch. It takes a lot of work, but it’s the way to go,” says Climo. Customers love the bagel shop for its “homey atmosphere,” too, which is fostered largely by the familiar faces behind the counter. “A lot of our staff members have worked here a long time and have established a rapport with our customers. They can even guess what people will order when they walk in the door. It's really nice to have a place like that.”
The Climos have sought to build on this strong foundation. Bob has added sandwich specials to the menu, such as the French Twist, and he is now looking forward to summery specials such as gazpacho and lobster salad. Customers can now even ask for gluten free bread!
But best of all, customers can now pay with BerkShares. “People are excited to see the ‘BerkShares Accepted Here’ sticker,” says Bob, “I like the idea that by using BerkShares we keep the money in our own area. That’s part of the reason I live here, it's about working together as a community.” He sees BerkShares as playing a leading role in the spirit of cooperation between businesses here. “That’s what so unique about us, and that’s what makes people love the Berkshires.”
Climo relishes the new challenge. “It's been fun. People come to me with their feedback, all the time. It's nice that people care so much about this great business.” Some customers are so dedicated, in fact, that they come up from New York for the weekend and buy bagels before heading back to the city. Bob laughs, “We are actually the exporter of a Berkshire product—New York-style bagels!”