ONE ON ONE | Jack and Cindy Kravitz Bagels beckoned lawyers back to the family business

Jack, what are your memories of growing up at your mom's deli?
Jack: We lived up above the deli. Every morning, I'd wake up and watch the bakers rolling bagels by hand and watch the bagels coming out of the oven.
So that seemed quite normal to you.
Jack: To me, it was. A fresh bakery was something that came quite naturally. Food service in general came naturally. I was handling knives and working machines at quite a young age, quite younger than you would be allowed today.
You both became lawyers and yet came here to work in bagels. Why?
Jack: We were living in Columbus. I was working for the attorney general's office and Cindy was in private practice. Neither of us liked the direction of our legal practice, and we both wanted to be closer to our family, my family here and her family in Buffalo. So we joined my mom and went into the deli business.
How did you end up with the wholesale operation?
Jack: We had done a few expansions and put in some new ovens. We were selling 50 dozen bagels a day, and we produced a minimum batch of 60 dozen a day. We found another deli that wanted some bagels, and we delivered them ourselves three days a week. That was the start of the wholesale business.
How many bagels do you make today?
Jack: 15,000 dozen a day.
Cindy, how does that compare with your experience growing up?
Cindy: I'm not from a bagel family. That's a big topic of conversation when I get together with family. I have to bring plenty of bagels when I go home to visit.
So this wasn't a job you had dreamed about?
Cindy: This was the furthest thing from my mind. When I was in law school, I never would have thought that I'd be co-owner of a bagel bakery in Youngstown.
How big can Kravitz Bagels become?
Cindy: The sky's the limit.
Jack: We expanded about 2 1/2 years years ago, so we have room to grow. We went from a 24-hour operation to one long shift so we could add another shift.
Cindy: The hard part is that big retailers like to deal with other big companies. It's hard for a small company like us to find a place in the market, so we try to find a niche in the market with quality or with delivery.
So the big bread companies are your competitors?
Cindy: Not really. Bagels make up such a small part of their business that they don't want to spend the money on equipment needed to make bagels, so they contract that work to companies like us.
Jack: That's become the biggest part of our business. There really isn't much of our product out there with our name on it.
Jack, what's your favorite memory of your mother?
Jack: She is so much a part of the deli. It's impossible to separate the two. It's almost like the two are one.
Cindy: I like that she knows everybody. It doesn't matter if it's the mayor or other official, she treats them like old friends and calls them by their first name.
Jack: She calls them by their nicknames that they used to be known by.
Do you make your bagels differently than at the deli?
Jack: She was making an egg bagel, which was high in oil and high in sugar. Our customers are looking for something without egg and lower in sugar, so we've modified them over time. Also, our bagels are shelf bagels, so we must make them softer so they can last.
Cindy: The deli bagels are meant to be baked and eaten that day. You couldn't take them and ship them to other states as we do with ours.
What do you like to do as a family?
Cindy: We take part in many activities at the Jewish Community Center. We like Mill Creek Park. My husband and my son like to go roller blading on the bike path.
What's your favorite way to eat a bagel?
Cindy: We eat a lot of bagels at tests at the bakery. Usually the ones that look the worst taste the best.
Jack: If we have a raisin bagel that has so many raisins that it's not shaped right, we can't sell it. But obviously, it tastes great.
Cindy: Our kids often ask if we brought any bagels home. We say, "No. We ate so many at work that we forgot to bring some home."

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