Over the buzz of conversation inside of Izzy’s Brooklyn Bagels, an employee shouts, “64!” A customer comes up and grabs his order. People are packed tightly in the small space like sardines in a tin, filling every available space. Families hover in between the tables, drawing their children close to them; busy professionals’ faces are illuminated by their phones in the dim lighting. Light fixtures along the top of the wall illuminate photographs of New York City streets, Hebrew signs from Brooklyn and signs that indicate that the restaurant is “strictly kosher.” Behind the counter, two employees stand behind the cash register while three others zip around, attending to the flood of orders.
Located on the busy street of California Avenue, Izzy’s is Palo Alto’s go-to bagel store. Israel “Izzy” Rind, an Israeli immigrant, and Stuart Stones, a fifth generation bagel maker opened Izzy’s Brooklyn Bagels in 1996. Rind, having no business education, had no idea what a success Izzy’s would soon become. In fact, Rind aspired to be an engineer and attended New York University’s engineering program. Tasting authentic bagels in New York, Rind would eventually be inspired to start his own Brooklyn bagel shop.
After realizing he didn’t enjoy engineering as much as he thought he would, Rind tried a variety of careers including in the jewelry business and in real estate. While all careers were memorable in their own way, they did not provide Rind with a steady flow of income.
“That [trying other careers] was good but I wanted something that could pay the rent,” Rind says.
He started his first business, the San Francisco Sandwich Co. but sold it before moving to Palo Alto. He found his experience in the restaurant business enjoyable, Rind realized that the time was right to open Izzy’s Brooklyn Bagels.
“I figured at that time that it [opening Izzy’s Brooklyn Bagels] would be my last opportunity that I would have to really try something that I always wanted to do,” Rind says. “This location came about and I figured it was a good location [to open Izzy’s], so I gave it a try.”
Although Stones, his business partner, had experience with the bagel-making business, Rind realized the job was more difficult than he had originally thought. A few weeks after opening, Izzy’s Bagels was deep in debt.
“There was no way to get out of it [debt],” Rind says. “The beginning was really difficult. Everything that could go wrong went wrong.”
Now, after overcoming its financial struggles, Izzy’s has become a popular shop that is well-known for its strong Jewish connection. However, this means that Izzy’s is closed on Jewish holidays, and on Saturdays, Rind cannot work.
“If you’re Jewish, you are not supposed to have a business open Saturday, so I have partner who is not Jewish,” Rind says.
Rind metaphorically hands the keys to his business partner who “owns” the business every week on Saturdays.
The most important aspect of Izzy’s is perhaps the focus on maintaining strong customer relations in Palo Alto. When Rind sees regulars David Aziz and Sophie Thesen, he embraces them warmly. They chatter brightly in a personal conversation while Thesen munches on her plain bagel.
Rind attributes this prosperity to his employees who have helped him come so far.
“They’re [the staff] are more important than I am,” Rind says.