Bringing bagels into the mainstream

by Dan Malovany
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Lender's Bagels
Marvin and Murray Lender ‘bagelized’ America by introducing, advertising, marketing and merchandising bagels in memorable ways.

The bagel is a staple of the American breakfast. But 50 years ago, it would have been difficult to find bagels outside of Jewish communities in towns like New Haven, Conn., birthplace of Marvin and Murray Lender, the brothers responsible for bringing the bagel into the mainstream.

These first-generation Americans, born 10 years apart to Polish immigrants, watched as their father, Harry, started the New York Bagel Bakery in the family garage in 1929. Both brothers worked in the family bakery during high school. Murray Lender, the eldest, rejoined the company after graduating from what is now Quinnipiac University in New Haven and serving in the U.S. Army. Marvin Lender followed suit after his own college graduation from Syracuse University.

As the business grew into the late 1950s, the brothers began to freeze the bakery’s bagels to keep up with consumer demand, defrosting them for higher-volume weekend sales. This technique proved to be the catalyst for much of the future success for the company and the product.

“Marvin and Murray Lender are known to have single-handedly created the frozen bagel market,” noted Doris Zelinsky, former financial director at Lender’s Bagels, in a report by Matt Hamer, Baking & Snack’s digital media associate editor. “They ‘bagelized’ America by introducing, advertising, marketing and merchandising bagels in memorable ways.”

At BakingTech 2017, the American Society of Baking’s annual conference, the Lenders are being inducted into the Baking Hall of Fame.

“The brothers were geniuses at taking an obscure, handmade product and adapting it to mass production, distribution and consumer delight, not just acceptance,” Ms. Zelinsky said. “They helped pave the way for a myriad of traditional bakery foods, from bagels to pirogues to blintzes to gnocchi, pita and naan that are now available in convenient forms.” 

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