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Bagels Are Their Business - from The Daily Herald 11/18/02
By Cass Cliatt Daily Herald Staff Writer

Cornfields surrounded Chicago Bagel and Bialy Deli Restaurant when it first opened in Wheeling in 1982.

Over the years, the mom-and-pop eatery would become a place where kids walking to London Middle School routinely stopped for their morning bagel and cream cheese.

Office receptionists would make the weekly run for discount bagels on "bagel day" Tuesdays, political candidates would come to view it as a prime community spot for campaigning and others would stop by just for "the schtick" offered by the jovial owners.

"It's been 20 years, and we're still here, and it's pretty amazing," said co-owner Sharon Harkavy. "From the time we opened, to the time we got thrown out because of Walgreens to now, we've survived in spite of everything."

Once at the corner of Dundee and Schoenbeck Roads, the bagel shop now at 260 S. Milwaukee Ave. weathered the threat of a wrecking ball and moved across town in 2000 to make room for the big-chain pharmacy.

Today, Chicago Bagel has a spot on Wheeling's prestigious Restaurant Row, a following of loyal customers and marked its 20 years doing business in Wheeling on Nov. 12.

"We're so happy here," Harkavy said. "We've made so many friends that are loyal customers, and the school kids still come by to visit. They come and say hello, and they've grown up so much. It's unbelievable."

Sharon's Harkavy's husband, Harold Harkavy, opened Chicago Bagel and Bialy in 1982 after running a similar business in Northbrook.

He had sold his partnership in New York Bagel and decided to strike out on his own. He formed a new business partnership after meeting his wife 10 years later.

When Walgreens decided to buy out the Harkavys' lease, along with those of neighboring Hip Cat Records and Music Videos, Sharon Harkavy dug in her heels and collected more than 700 signatures on a petition to rally opposition against the pharmacy chain.

Eventually, though, village approval for a prime spot on Restaurant Row gave Chicago Bagel renewed energy.

"On a bagel day, we get almost 600 customers," Harkavy said of Tuesdays, when the shop offers bagels at $2.99 a dozen. "I think now that we're on Restaurant Row, we're more visible. We knew it was up and coming, and it's been better than we anticipated."

Most of what keeps people coming back is the food, Harkavy said.
Chicago Bagel is not a chain, and all of the food is homemade.
"I make a lot of it, and I wouldn't serve anything I wouldn't eat myself," she said. "Our regular customers like that, and they're still with us."

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copyright 2002
Chicago Bagel & Bialy II