Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

`Bagel Boys' Find Friendship Grows with Business

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

`Bagel Boys' Find Friendship Grows with Business

Article excerpt

They are known as "The Bagel Boys" in Stillwater.

That term has stuck from the time three Oklahoma State University students and close friends, Robert J. Geresi, Paul T. Sorrentino and Vince Vrana, started New York Bagel Shop Delicatessen in Stillwater.

They are now into their 10th year of operating that shop, have added 11 more company-owned shops, and have franchised 18 others in 10 states from Portland, Ore., to Columbia, S.C.

All three partners also have reached the age of 32, and remain close friends, Geresi said.

"You couldn't ask for three closer friends," he said.

Their friendship and ability to work well together using the strengths of each was credited by Geresi for their successful operations.

Requests come in daily to buy franchises, although franchise buyers are being closely screened and scrutinized before being approved, they said.

"We will have 40 (stores) by the end of this year," Sorrentino said.

They received the U.S. Small Business Administration National Entrepreneurial Success Award for 1995 and were hosted in Washington, D.C., during Small Business Week by President Bill Clinton and SBA Administrator Philip Lader.

They will be honored today in a visit to the Oklahoma Legislature and to Gov. Frank Keating, and with a luncheon at Metro Tech Conference Center.

Growth of New York Bagel Shop Delicatessen has been so fast this year that on any given day it is difficult for the partners to quickly answer how many shops exist.

The shop-opening process has been developed into about a 30-day routine from date of lease signing.

"It is getting crazy. I don't have a golf game anymore," Vrana said.

"It is hard to keep up with how many shops we have, especially when you're out front making sandwiches," Vrana said.

All three of the partners make it a practice to be behind the counter of one of their shops at lunch time to keep in personal contact with their customers, whom they consider "the boss," and to observe daily operations, he said.

"We don't sit back in an office and watch the books. Someone is always working lunch behind the counter somewhere. The bottom line doesn't always mean everything," Vrana said.

That check on quality is carried through from the start of each day's operation, he said.

"Our bagels are all fresh daily from scratch. Anything left over is either given to charity or thrown out at the end of the day," he said.

"We still boil our bagels. A lot of people are just steaming them now, but we still boil ours the old-fashioned way," Vrana said.

The company operates small bakeries to service its nearby shops to maintain the freshness of its products, he said.

"We just started out in 1986 like a little mom-and-pop operation. We started out with just the three of us," Sorrentino said.

"We thought it would be nice if we could just make this one store survive. …

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