Widgets Magazine

Chris Conlan of Goldberg’s Famous Bagels on Family, Food & Expanding into the North Fork

Q: Goldberg’s Famous Bagels sounds like a family business. Is it? Are you a Goldberg? A: Yes, it’s a family business. It’s not a franchise. But no, I’m not a Goldberg. I worked for the Goldberg family for the past seven years in the Southampton store with my buddy Micah, who got me the job. We were working for Mark Goldberg. Each location is owned and managed by a different member of the family, aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers and sisters.

And Mark Goldberg came to us and said I’m opening four stores, and I’m retiring in a few years, and so if you want a future in this you’re both going to take your own stores. Micah took Riverhead, and I took Mattituck.

Q: Is Mark the founder? Or is Goldberg’s Famous Bagels already two or three generations into being?

A: Mark is second generation; his father taught him. The first store was in 1949. Mark is a really great guy, he’s very loyal. We worked so hard for him for a long time, never questioned him, I think that’s why he gave us this opportunity.

Q: Goldberg’s has several locations, right? How standardized are the stores? Or they all really different?

A: Right now we’re in Riverhead, Mattituck, East Quogue, Southampton, East Hampton Montauk, Ammagansett, Bridgehampton and Napeague. We did have some stores out in NJ, I think he sold those.

The same standards and principles are taught at each location, but each location is run by different family members, aunts, uncles, cousins.  Each store has a different family member in it.

Q: Mattituck is Goldberg’s first North Fork spot. Do you like being here?

A: I’m really glad I got Mattituck. The Mattituck people are great. They remind me of the people in the small town I grew up in upstate. Generous and polite. Really great people on the North Fork.

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Q: What’s the secret of Goldberg’s Famous Bagels? They really are something special.

A: Other than how much care we put into our product, there’s no secrets. It’s just a deep commitment to quality.

There’s a very intricate process that goes on behind the scenes. We use the best ingredients, we don’t go cheap. If there’s a secret, that’s it.

Q: What do you like about the bagel business?

A: I’m a people person, I like making friendships with all kinds of people. I’ve gotten to see kids grow up as they kept coming through the store. I’ve developed multiple long-term relationships with people I met through the deli.

Q: Do you have a favorite bagel?

A: I like the onions and the cinnamon. I’d say the French toast bagel but I’m allergic to it. We sell a ton of the French toast bagels.

Q: You’re a bagel store, but you’ve got a lot of other products too; any special signature ones?

A: A couple cool custom things we do, we make homemade pretzels—a cinnamon sugar one, a butter and salt one, using our bagel dough. The kids love them.

Also, we make bagel heros. We make an 18” or a 24” bagel sub, and at every party it’s always the talk of the party. And it’s much easier to transport than the really long heroes. A 24” bagel sub serves about 30 people, because it’s 2 feet all around.

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We do a lot of catering like that, where we put it together and you pick it up.

We have a full deli, all Boar’s Head meats. We make custom sandwiches. One of our best selling sandwiches just happens to be called The Mattituck. That’s a honey turkey, bacon, lettuce, tomato, avocado and ranch wrap.

Also one popular in our deli, we squeeze our own fresh orange juice.

Q: You can’t be a proper bagel store without good lox and cream cheese. What do you offer?

Our lox is top of the line; we hand slice it to order. Really good smoked salmon from Jersey.  We make all the cream cheese—it starts as Philadelphia freshly whipped, and then we add all sorts of different stuff. Your most popular are plain, vegetable and scallion, but people say our jalapeno cream cheese is the best they’ve ever had. From there on it’s all preference.

Q: One thing you have, that I’d never seen before—I haven’t been to any other Goldberg’s Famous Bagels—is the Flagel. They’re really cool, flat bagels. Did Goldberg’s invent them?

A: We didn’t invent flagels, we just perfected them. People usually like them because they have immense amount of seeds and because of their shape they’re great for sandwiches. Just easier to get your mouth around.

Q: You seem to have a lot of bagels; how many kinds, and do you have any seasonal ones?

A: In the summer we have, um, maybe 13 kinds.

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In the winter we do a few more, like toasted honey oat. We only do it in the winter because it’s a different process of cooking; you can’t put it in the oven, you have to use parchment paper; things like that. It’s just too busy in the summer to manage two different processes in the back.  We’ve played around with blueberry, spinach, a cinnamon raisin French toast.  We do green bagels for St. Pat’s, pink ones for breast cancer awareness.

Q: Being a small business owner can be a tough road; the bagel store before you in this plaza didn’t make it. Still, you seem pretty packed. Your store is pretty new though; how confident are you in its future?

A: We’re a little over a year old now. We pride ourselves in our customer service, and I think that will make the business thrive.

Q: You mentioned some bagels you only do in the winter. But some stores on the North Fork are seasonal. Are you open year round?

A: We’re open 7 days, six a.m. to 3 pm. Really, every day—Christmas, Thanksgiving, we’re always open.

Q: Wow, that’s great and awful at the same time.  Anything you want to add?

A: Yes. I want to add my appreciation to the whole Goldberg family, and to my brother Brian. He sacrificed his whole summer for the store. Brian just works so hard, puts so much love and perfection into everything he does. He just this morning left to go back to school; upstate New York, a little town called Berlin. Yes, he’ll be back here working on holidays. I hope someday he takes over a store as we expand more. I’d also like to thank the rest of my employees; they’re great, the glue to the puzzle.