100 million bagels

Scott Schulman

Photo courtesy of Scott Schulman

The first week of July marked 40 years making and selling bagels for Peter Horylev and Scott Schulman (pictured left and right, respectively), owners of Brooklyn Bridge Bagel Works. A precise calculation of years and bags of flour equals out to 100 million delicious hand-shaped rings of dough, Schulman told the CN&R. The short history of this downtown Chico standby has Schulman arriving in town from New York in a hippie van in the ’70s to attend Chico State. After graduating with a degree in psychology, he realized he wasn’t interested in listening to other people’s problems, so he headed back East to spend a week making bagels with his old roommate (an experienced bagel-maker) to learn what he could. With $5,000 and a lot of chutzpah, he started Oy Vey Bagels—a small shop downtown, above what would eventually become the expanded Oy Vey Cafe. In a serendipitous turn of events, Horylev became Schulman’s first employee. The original hire didn’t show, and Horylev (second on the list) took over and never left. The duo went on to start the first company to supply fresh bagels in mass quantities to the public, manufacturing up to 16,000 bagels a day and transporting them to 35 states and three countries. The cafe closed, the wholesale business was sold, and the beloved Brooklyn Bridge Chicoans have known and loved for the last roughly 25 years was born. Both Schulman (interviewed here) and Horylev are still there working the counter a few days a week. Stop by, grab a bagel, and say hi.

It seems like you guys have had the only bagel place in town forever.

Yeah, that’s true. The one guy who tried ended up coming in at 6 in the morning to buy ours and resell them. He said, “I can’t make them as good as you and you charge me less than it costs me to make them myself.”

How did you get into making bagels on such a massive scale?

We had been open for eight months and I talked Lucky’s into believing I could provide all 387 stores with bagels. We borrowed $50,000 and opened up the factory, but we didn’t know what we were doing. We had equipment we didn’t know how to use; we knew nothing. We did that for 11 years and became pretty successful, but I didn’t like the wholesale end of it—I like people.

What stands out most over the decades at Brooklyn Bridge?

Our customers are still loyal as can be. When they walk in, the girls usually know what they are going to eat and start making it. Peter and I have somehow gotten along for 40 years. We know what each others’ strengths are, and weaknesses. We’ve had no problems. He has this incredible integrity and honesty, and a work ethic that’s ridiculous. I don’t have that—I come up with the ideas and he ends up doing the work and we get along fine.

I heard you don’t like bagels.

Even as a kid I wasn’t a bagel person. I eat the bagel dog a lot, the bagel dogs are good.