Living in Cos Cob, Phil Nourie and his wife loved walking to their neighborhood bagel shop on weekends. So they were delighted when — moving to Westport — they discovered Bagel Maven on a weekend stroll.
After their son was born in 2009, owner Alex Perdomo delivered bagels and coffee to their home.
That’s the kind of guy Alex is. And it’s the kind of place Bagel Maven was.
But in mid-September, Alex told Phil that he might have to close. He’d missed a rent payment last winter. He took 4 months to pay back, and his landlord was unwilling to take another risk.
Phil — whose day job is in PR and marketing, with plenty of experience in crisis management — offered to help.
He advised Alex not to disparage the landlord — not that Alex would have. He knew he’d made a mistake, and that commercial real estate is a business too.
Phil suggested Alex give away bagels on his last day. “You don’t know what can happen,” Phil said. “You never want to burn bridges.”
“06880” broke the story on Bagel Maven’s closing. WestportNow and News12 followed up.
Phil created a Facebook page and Twitter account. Strangers emailed, asking how they could help.
The Sunday after he closed, Alex met with Phil and another patron. They talked about the possibility of wholesaling, or finding new space in Westport.
Phil suggested Alex talk to his landlord.
The conversation went well. Alex was forthright about his past error, and his current situation. The landlord — who had seen the press stories and social media activity — realized Bagel Maven was not just another shop.
Alex got a new lease. The landlord agreed to pay for painting.
Two patrons offered to pay for renovations. Alex and some friends have already taken apart the floor. The oven will be upgraded, and the interior opened up so customers can see the bagels being made. They’ll smell them, too.
The target date for reopening is November 8.
Phil calls this one of the most gratifying projects he’s worked on.
“It’s a great story about how people can come together, and do more than anyone thought possible,” he says.
“And it’s been done without any sense of outrage. This is a story of reality — of mistakes, and what can come out of them.”
Phil adds, “I got way into this — far more than I thought. But I couldn’t just walk away.”
Soon — thanks to Phil Nourie, and a community-wide effort — all of us can walk back into Bagel Maven.