Hole again! Cab drivers save Coney Island Bialys and Bagels

Coney Island Bialys and Bagels was set to go out of business until Peerzada Shah (left) and Zafaryab Ali stepped in to save the 57-year-old bakery.
Photo by Paul Martinka

A beloved Jewish bakery on the brink of closure has been saved — by two Muslim cab drivers with a shared love of kosher bagels and their hole-less, flat, more oniony cousin, the bialy.

Zafaryab Ali and Peerzada Shah have taken over Coney Island Bialys and Bagels — one of just two bakeries left in the borough that bakes their own bialys — after hearing that the 57-year-old shop was going to close.

“When I found out that they were going out of business I was shocked,” said Ali, who worked for the bakery’s owner Steven Ross for 11 years before leaving to become a cab driver in 2003. “I wanted a better future for the store.”

So Ali and Shah — former roommates who ate at the bakery when they shared a Midwood apartment in the early 1990s — contacted Ross and struck a deal to rent the business on Coney Island Avenue between Avenue U and Avenue T, rescuing it from a certain death.

Ali said he’s hoping to revive the store’s business by renovating its interior and boosting its wholesale business. He quit his job as a cabbie and now spends his days at the bakery making kosher bagels and biayls using Ross’s family recipes.

“If the store does well, I’ll have it open 24 hours again,” Ali said.

News of the new ownership was first reported by The Jewish Daily Forward.

In August, Ross said that he would close the bakery his grandfather Morris Rozenzweig founded in 1954 because the local demand for bialys had dwindled as the neighborhood’s Jewish base moved away.

“We don’t bake anymore during the day because there’s no business,” Ross said at the time.

In the shop’s heyday in the 1970s and ’80s, it was open 24 hours a day and churned out on average 2,700 to 6,000 bialys and 1,440 bagels each day, Ross said. But as tastes in Brooklyn changed and boiled bagels replaced their baked brethren in popularity, the store’s business started to shrink, along with its hours of operation.

By this summer Ross said the bakery, which now closes at 6 pm, was only making 540 to 720 bialys and 240 bagels a day.

Neighbors said they were thrilled that the bakery would stay open at all.

“It’s good for the neighborhood,” said Joe Martelo. “They make a great product.”

Reach reporter Daniel Bush at dbush@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-8310.

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