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Einstein Bros. Gives Fresno a New Place to Get Your Bagel Fix

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Finally, Fresno has a national bagel chain — again.

Einstein Bros. Bagels opened in late December on Friant and Highway 41 — next to the Dave & Buster’s at 228 E. River Park Circle. It is the first of five planned locations in the Central Valley.

National chains in Fresno have come up bagels. The only dedicated purveyors of the doughy treat in town have been Fresno Bagel Co. (8839 N. First Street, at Nees Avenue), and four Uncle Harry’s NY Bagelry & Coffeehouse locations.

“There’s not a lot of competition. There’s some great establishments already created, but I’m just proud to have a little spice, a little different flavor as well. We take great pride in our sandwiches,” said local Einstein Bros. franchise owner/general manager Jaime Gonzalez.

Gonzalez is partnering with brother-in-law Patrick Monreal and Mohamed Alhalemi to bring the franchise to Fresno. Gonzalez, born and raised in Fresno, has experience running businesses, including a Target in Manteca.

“It just means a lot to me to be back home and just bring jobs here,” Gonzalez said.

(GV Wire/Paul Marshall)

Sandwiches are Einstein Top Sellers

One of the early top-sellers is the Texas brisket egg sandwich ($7.99 with one egg; $9.39 with two eggs). The sandwich includes smoked beef brisket, cheddar, smoky chipotle aioli on a cheddar jalapeño bagel.

The All-Nighter is another popular choice. It contains bacon, two slices of American cheese, and smoky chipotle aioli on a cheesy hash brown bagel ($7.99 with two eggs).

Einstein Bros. offers more than 20 different bagel selections (ranging from $2.19 to $2.99 each; a baker’s dozen for $14.99).  Several different shmears (an additional $1.89) range from plain — the most popular according to Gonzalez — to jalapeño salsa to onion and chive.

Top: An Einstein Bros Bagels poppy seed with jalapeño salsa shmear; below: the Texas brisket egg sandwich. (GV Wire/David Taub)

Why Fresno?

Gonzalez and his partners determined that Fresno needed another bagel shop.

“When we pitched the idea of bringing the corporation to the Valley, they said, ‘Whoa, we never heard of Fresno. ‘ … and we were like, ‘Hey, there’s an opportunity here,’ ” Gonzalez said.

Like many Fresnans, Gonzalez grew up on Fresno Bagel Co. and Uncle Harry’s.

“Competition is a great thing. It makes us all better,” Gonzalez said. “When you try a lot of bagels, you know, a dry bagel, a not-so-fresh, fluffy one. And here people say, ‘This is a great bagel. Thank you.’ And I’m like, there you go.”

A second Fresno Einstein Bros. is set to open at Herndon Avenue and Highway 99 by March or April. There are future locations planned for Clovis, Madera, and Visalia.

All the bagels are made in the local kitchen, every two hours. The oven starts firing up around 3 a.m. for the 6 a.m. opening. Store hours are 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. seven days a week.

Water is always a key ingredient for bagels. Einstein Bros. uses a triple filter system.

“The water that we have provided, it’s all really clean water. No water spots, no hard water. That means a lot to me, that quality, that ingredient. So when we were able to decide on that system, I’m like, let’s go all hands on deck,” Gonzalez said.

Uncle Harry’s: Labor of Love

Despite including “NY” in its official name, Uncle Harry’s is locally owned and operated by wife-husband team Rena Gazarian Rutledge and Wayne Rutledge. They opened in 1995 and currently operate four Fresno locations.

Harry is Rena’s grandfather, who immigrated from “the old country” to New York, operated a successful haberdashery, then moved to California to farm.

“He was a very special man. He worked hard. He was an immigrant. We learned the English language. He became very successful at what he did,” Rena said.

Wayne says baking bagels “is not an easy business.” Bakers will come in as early as 11 p.m. the previous evening for a 5:30 a.m. opening. Uncle Harry’s bakes its own bagels and mixes its own shmears at its West Shaw Avenue location, sending them out to the three other stores.

“We just thought we wanted to be fully local and independent. So we opened then. Neither one of us had any restaurant experience. The first day that we opened, our friends were in the store making sandwiches for folks that were coming in the door. The first store was at Palm and Bullard. We just grew from there,” Wayne said.

Uncle Harry’s owners and the wife-and-husband team of Rena Gazarian Rutledge and Wayne Rutledge. (GV Wire/David Taub)

The company’s mixer has been with Uncle Harry’s for 25 years. The bagelry offers nearly 30 different varieties — from the traditional poppy and sesame seed to sweet creations like red velvet.

Uncle Harry’s took over the River Park location when national chain Noah’s Bagels pulled out about 20 years ago.

“It’s a competitive environment. The real estate costs, insurance costs, all of our costs doing business have been going up. But thanks to our employees, our management team, we’ve been able to survive,” Wayne said. “It’s challenging to keep the quality up for our customers.”

Right now, Uncle Harry’s plans to remain at four stores in Fresno. A few years ago, the company shut its Fig Garden location.

“We’re not as young as we used to be,” Wayne joked.

As for its new competitor, Einstein Bros., Rena says they “wish them the best.”

Wayne says the customers will decide. He said they have strong customer loyalty, dating back to the beginning.

“We’re just trying to get a little bit better each day, trying to stay current with all the new technology. And, so far we’ve been blessed,” Wayne said.

The most popular bagels, according to Wayne, are pesto provolone, cinnamon raisin, and plain.

A sampler from Uncle Harry’s NY Bagelry and Coffeehouse. (GV Wire/David Taub)

No Connection to Albert

Colorado-based Einstein Bros. Bagels is part of Panera Brands, which include other bagel chains such as Bruegger Bagels, Noah’s New York Bagels, and Manhattan Bagel. Einstein has 688 stores nationwide, including Okinawa Air Force Base in Japan.

There are no Einstein brothers per se, and the brand is not connected to Albert. Rather, the Einsteins are cartoon mascots Elmo (with the glasses) and Melvyn (with the mustache).

Melvyn (left) and Elmo Einstein are the fictional mascots. (GV Wire/David Taub)

Curiosity drives David Taub. The award-winning journalist might be shy, but feels mighty with a recorder in his hand. He doesn't see it his job to "hold public officials accountable," but does see it to provide readers (and voters) the information needed to make intelligent choices. Taub has been honored with several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. He's just happy to have his stories read. Joining GV Wire in 2016, Taub covers politics, government and elections, mainly in the Fresno/Clovis area. He also writes columns about local eateries (Appetite for Fresno), pro wrestling (Off the Bottom Rope), and media (Media Man). Prior to joining the online news source, Taub worked as a radio producer for KMJ and PowerTalk 96.7 in Fresno. He also worked as an assignment editor for KCOY-TV in Santa Maria, California, and KSEE-TV in Fresno. He has also worked behind the scenes for several sports broadcasts, including the NCAA basketball tournament, and the Super Bowl. When not spending time with his family, Taub loves to officially score Fresno Grizzlies games. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Taub is a die-hard Giants and 49ers fan. He graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. Go Blue! You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email

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