After closing this summer, Greg's Bagels will soon reopen under the ownership of a former employee who hopes to maintain the home-away-from-home atmosphere cherished at the shop.
Greg's Bagels closed in August after 30 years in business when owner Greg Novik was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Tommy Hearn, 22, is taking over the Belvedere Square staple with plans to reopen in early January.
Hearn said he had been going to Greg's Bagels since he was a child, and spent his youth trying to get a job there. There wasn't an opening until just over a year ago, when he joined the staff.
During that time, he became close with Novik and the staff, he said.
"It was really unique because it was like one gigantic family," Hearn said. "It was an escape for a lot of kids. People would come there and it was like a second home."
Hearn spent time shadowing Novik, he said, and learned about the business and the bagel-making process.
When Novik decided to close the shop, Hearn stayed in touch with him and asked if he would convince the next owner to keep him on board. But while people approached Novik about buying the shop, he didn't find a good fit, Hearn said.
Hearn expressed interest in taking over the shop, which was "about the product not the profit," he said.
"He's worked at the store for a while — he loves the store," Novik said. "Some of the other people I talked to were more interested in how much money they would make."
When Novick and Hearn discussed what it would mean for a more profit-driven business to take over Greg's, Hearn said, "the conversation ended up [with] me saying, 'Maybe I could make something work with you, and we could try to keep the security and uniqueness of this place together.'"
Hearn will be the full owner of Greg's Bagels, but Novik will be there as often as he's able to help with the transition.
"This is Greg's creation, Greg's legacy, and I'm just somebody that's trying to keep something that meant a lot to me going," Hearn said.
Novik said he's often tired and uncomfortable as a result of the cancer, and he may only be able to devote an hour or two a day to teaching Hearn. When the shop reopens, it will have limited hours and a limited menu as Hearn learns what it takes to run the shop, Novik said.
"We'll start off slow and build up," Novik said. "I'm playing on the love and loyalty of our customers to give us some time to get this guy to where he's got to be."
He said if Hearn can make it through the first few months, he's confident the shop will succeed under the new ownership.
"For the shop, I think the mission is pretty simple: just do whatever it takes to keep your regular customers coming back, and that's always what we've done," Novik said. "If you don't walk out of there with a smile on your face, I haven't done my job."