Jimmy: the Person
I was raised in a loving Italian family on Long Island, NY. My father would often work two jobs to support us while my mother made an unbelievably warm home that had food at its center. To her, food was love and she lived to see her family happy at the kitchen table. Heaven forbid if she even sensed we weren't reaching for seconds. We would have to spend the better part of the night assuring her we still loved her food.
At 28 years old I was failing miserably on Wall St. On a cold and rainy sleepless night I went for a drive to try to figure out what to do for the rest of my life and I stopped in to an all-night bagel store for a cup of tea. Staring out the window I looked up to Heaven and asked for a sign. Moments later a worker packing out the nights deliveries stopped what he was doing and put a bagel on my table. You like?
Jimmy: the Baker
In 1989 I would open The Daily Bagel in Yorktown Heights, NY. I had decided to cross a NY bagel store with a traditional bakery and the bakery side of the business was made possible only through the teachings of two great mentors. Bennett Pakula of the famous Pakula's Bakery instilled a love of scratch baking which was a vanishing trade as the large commercial suppliers would introduce instant cake mixes that made baking easier to the point where anyone who could measure water could become a baker. Unfortunately, with ease came sameness and lack of originality. It was my desire to be unique and original that tempted Brian Farkos, a graduate of the CIA, to not only help me open that first store but to also teach me they science of baking.
The combination of scratch baking and my love to see people happy through food brought unbelievable success. But the lessons I learned in that first little bakery are what this site is all about. The most valued lessons learned in those years did not come from baking but in the store front. It was those face-to-face moments with customers that provided me with an appreciation of the absolute necessity to treat them like they were sitting at my own dinner table.
My mother's devotion to seeing her family happy through food was in my blood. In the mornings I would see men and women on their way to work - like my father - providing for their families. As I got to know many of them I would come to know that whatever their financial means they all were experiencing life's struggles. I began to see that their visit to my 'neighborhood bakery' gave them a brief break from life's battles. I could not have asked for a better counter staff who provided endless moments of smiles and laughter on both sides of the counter. This, in my mind, was what the Neighborhood Bakery should be all about. Great stuff and lots of smiles.
The business would grow to multiple stores and then to a small commercial bakery at the end of Front St. in Yorktown. And, yes, there were failures along the way. A merger with another bakery would wipe out years of financial success. In the middle of that I would be diagnosed with colon cancer. But, like Forrest Gump, I would unexpectedly fall in to an opportunity to appear on QVC. Sitting in that first meeting with a chemo pump hidden under my clothes was one of the most dramatic days of my life.
The wonderful thing about QVC and this website is they have made this entire USA my neighborhood. What I strive for is to be that same Neighborhood Bakery that gives you a break from life's struggles. It should be a place that makes you smile when visiting and even truly enjoy what my bakers and I have baked for you. I promise satisfaction not just because it is good business but because chances are, like my father, you work hard for your money and the decision to hand it over to this bakery is something I will never take for granted. Like my mother? I will not rest until you are reaching for seconds.