Peter Eulo has been working in restaurants and bakeries since he was 14. He started Court Street Bagels 20 years ago, making his own bagels in a shop just south of Brooklyn Borough Hall. The neighborhood gentrified, but the shop didn’t change. Glass cases offered muffins and black-and-white cookies; sandwiches were named for friends and employees. Locals lined up on weekends.
Then, on Saturday afternoon, the store’s social-media account announced that Sunday would be its last day. Redditors mourned. Crowds formed. “There was a little bit of a fuss Sunday morning,” Eulo said. “I said good-bye to everyone.” The story seemed straightforward: His landlord was kicking him out; he had been paying $180,000 in rent annually to an owner who, he says, listed his space as available a year ago as a negotiating tactic, then offered a new lease that Eulo couldn’t afford. “They pulled some kind of stunt where they jacked my rent through the roof,” he said. So on Sunday evening, he handed back the keys. He and his staff said their good-byes and took all their personal things. Eulo told me, “I left with the cable equipment in my backpack and the cash register in my arms.”
On Monday, a friend who helps run the store’s Instagram swung by to take a picture of the darkened store — and found it wasn’t dark. Two employees he had worked with for years were behind the counter. Nothing had changed. The black-and-white cookies were in the case; the faded “Welcome! We are OPEN” sign was back in the window.
The store Eulo had created was open and operating under the same name, but he hadn’t been told what was going on. The day before, his employees had seemed to be grieving; now they were here. “This is the biggest mystery in my life,” Eulo said over the phone on Tuesday. “I have no idea what’s going on, but it’s my name — it’s my everything.” Eulo wonders if a new owner instantly took over with all of his old equipment. He rushed to cut off what he could — shutting down accounts for electric, gas, and cable on Monday — but there’s no way to erase the name over the door. “The fact that it’s Court Street Bagels and I got up every morning at 4 a.m., six days a week for 20 years to work there — that’s a little shocking.”
On Tuesday afternoon, I visited Court Street Bagels. Two employees behind the counter told me the owner of Smith Street Bagels had taken the place over. But when I went to Smith Street Bagels — where customers order on Toast-enabled flat-screens and the walls are a shiny, clean corporate white — the owner, “Adam A.,” said he knew nothing about who had taken over Court Street. As a bagel man, though, he was aware of the drama. “I’m seeing people go crazy on Reddit,” he told me. The agent who had the listing for the space a year ago didn’t immediately return a call. The building is owned by 181 Court Street LLC, and Eulo didn’t put me in touch with the landlord.
Eulo is worried about the reputation of the business he built, but he told me he’s trying to stress as little as possible. “I need some time off,” he said. “I’ve been working like a maniac for the past 20 years.” At Court Street Bagels, an employee who said his name is Gigi, like the $12 turkey sandwich named after him, said he will miss the former owner: “Peter was a crazy guy but a very nice guy. That’s why I was working for him for 18 years.”
Update: Since the publication of this story, NYCBagelTours.com outed the landlord as Conway Capital, which took over in 2020 and raised the rent. The site spoke to “sources familiar with the situation” who said Eulo fell behind in 2021. Meanwhile, Eater got in contact with the new owner, who, no shock to Curbed or the employees we spoke to, is the owner of Smith Street Bagels, Adam Alsoora. Alsoora reportedly signed paperwork in May to take over the lease, and Eater reports that he “kept the name the same to cause less disruption to customers.”