It’s the kind of quaint coffee shop that has been a neighborhood staple since the late 1970’s. For the New York Coffee Shop at 9720 Hillcroft, the décor hasn’t changed much, and the steady crowd of neighborhood people are now coming as first- to third- generation customers to eat deli fare and breakfasts.
Previous owners and founders Jay Kornhaber and Ed Gavrila were ready to retire in 2019 when Michael Saghian purchased the combined coffee shop and bagel bakery in Brays Oaks. He wanted to take their deli concept further — into catering.
“They did a paper and pencil catering business, very small, and limited to small gatherings with customer pickup,” Saghian explained. “Their main focus was on the restaurant and bagel bakery.”
Saghian, who knew the long-time established restaurant and bakery were a successful formula that needed little improvement and tampering, kept the same staff to keep churning out the same bagels and baked goods. The cooks, waitresses, and other help mostly have been long-term employees.
Saghian already owned a catering company called Voss Catering (changed to Houston Catering Concepts) with a commercial kitchen. The area was ripe for catering events such as weddings, birthdays, and religious occasions.
Saghian recruited Riana Sherman in 2019 as he liked her connections to the community. He felt she could help him draw business and expand the connections to many Jewish entities that needed catering for events. She was so successful that she is now co-owner of the restaurant, bakery, and catering business as well as their jointly owned new restaurant and bakery opened at Bellaire Boulevard at Chimney Rock in the city of Bellaire.
Shortly after Saghian’s acquisition, the pandemic devastated restaurants and catering businesses as gatherings dwindled to nothing. The catering business was limited to people ordering food to go for a single entity or family.
Fortunately, due to those orders, the restaurant and bagel bakery businesses sustained themselves until things started picking up again.
Now with the catering business doing as well as prior to the pandemic, growth is happening. Sixty percent of their business is catering, 25 percent of revenues come from the bakery and 15 percent comes from the restaurant.
The catering service offers six menu concepts: American food, Italian food, Persian or Mediterranean food, Tex-Mex, barbecue and deli.
The executive chef for Catering is Andres Albarran, who has been with Saghian since 2014. Customers can mix and match a variety of offerings on the six menus.
On the bakery end, the business has tripled its supplying of bagels to commercial businesses. They also supply challahs, a traditional Jewish braided bread, to many entities such as Jewish synagogues and day schools. Sherman’s ties to the Jewish community helped expand that part of the business.
Saghian’s bagel dough maker, Jose Miranda, has worked there for 30 years. Bagel baker Javier Cruz has been baking there for 26 years.
Lately, with the restaurant busy once again, Saghian and Sherman are also focusing on nurturing the table service operation and continuing to churn out great bagels and baked goods. With a sentimental and loyal customer base, it is not undergoing any further transformation.
“It’s nostalgic, it is profitable, and Jay Kornhaber, and Ed Gavrila (the previous owners) built a great 46-year business,” Saghian said. “We are not trying to change anything at this restaurant because this concept works. It is a place to come and see your friends, and generations who grew up coming are still coming with their little ones. It’s funny because we only improved the coffee served, but have not touched the bagel recipe, though people were worried I might be tampering with it.”
The new bakery/deli in Bellaire has the distinction of being an approved kosher facility, which makes it different from the original location in Brays Oaks.
New York Coffee Shop and Bagel Bakery
9724 Hillcroft St.
— By Arlene Nisson Lassin