The Better Bagel's last day in business was a teary one, as loyal regulars said goodbye on Oct. 31 before the doors closed for good at 1040 Grant Road, to make way a new fitness center.
"I'll miss the people, all my customers, because I've been here so long," said manager Annie Ngov, employed there 10 years by her cousin, owner Ted Lam. "All my customers don't want us to leave."
In a June City Council meeting, seniors decried the loss of the bagel shop, to be replaced by "City Sports Club" - a 24-hour fitness center for the "upwardly mobile." New York Pizza and Rite Aide also closed Thursday to make way for the fitness center.
One of the regulars is 104 years old, and comes just to hang out with his friends every morning, Ngov said.
"Retirees, they just cover this place," said regular customer Steve Alpine. He said the draw was the convenient location near many homes, the fresh bagels and the friendly service. Alpine used to own a bagel shop himself, on Pier 39 in San Francisco. He said he could understand how hard it was for the owners to let go of their business, which can feel like "a part of the family."
While City Council members wanted to save the Bagel Shop in its place, they couldn't legally require the building owner to do anything. The owner was said to have worked for years to bring a new tenant in to replace Rite Aide, which the bagel shop sits in front of, and the shop space would have to go to make the building attractive to a major new tenant.
The store was offered a new space elsewhere in the building, where Rite Aide's garden center was, but the shop would have had to be closed for months. Ngov said her cousin Lam had bought a donut shop in San Jose at 459 South Capitol Avenue called World Donut. But she won't have enough work there. "I need to find another job for myself," Ngov said.