H & H Bagels, one of the totems of Upper West Side existence, will close its classic Broadway location tonight. (It's closed already as I write this, meaning they didn't even give people a chance to pay a final farewell visit. Other reports said Monday.)
The shop, a landmark to bagel-loving New Yorkers for 40 years, was the victim of mischief and mishandling on the part of the owner, Helmer Toro. In late 2009, Toro was accused of absconding with almost $370,000 in payroll withholding taxes owed to state and federal authorities from 2003 to 2009. In May 2010, he pleaded guilty to grand larceny in the case, wrote the Times. He was sentence to spend 50 weekends in jail and pay more than $500,000 in restitution.
The factory and shop at 639 West 46th Street will remain open, but who really cares. The real New York experience was visiting the curious, bare, but fancy (chandeliers?) shop at the corner of W. 80th. The bagels were so popular that they sold fast; hence, they were always fresh, and often warm. They were the big, soft sort of modern bagel of which I don't necessarily approve. And the blueberry bagels are just nonsense. But of their type they were excellent.
I've said before that whatever thin veneer of authenticity and integrity the Upper West Side still clings to depends on just a handful of places, among them Zabar's, Citarella and Murray's Sturgeon Shop. It's just lost a mighty pillar.