This is one of three WLAA stories on the reopening of MD Bagel Fragel.
It goes something like this …
Canadian Border Guard (CBG): What is your purpose for driving through Canada?
Terry Jacoby (TJ): Driving through on our way to Rochester, N.Y.
CBG: Why are you going to Rochester?
TJ: I was born and raised there.
CBG: Oh, you are going to see family?
TJ: No, they have all moved away.
CBG: Oh, friends?
TJ: Nope, they are gone too.
CBG: Then why are you going?
TJ: For the food!!!
No, Rochester N.Y. is far from the cuisine capital of the world unless you count the Garbage Plate (Google it if you want), but it’s where I grew up. And the food you grow up with leaves a lasting memory that has more to do with your youth than it does the quality of ingredients.
And this brings me back to MD Bagel Fragel. When the longtime Ann Arbor business was forced out of its location on Plymouth Road, owner Patricia Rockette was all set to close the doors and be done with it – even though it was something she loved.
But the customers revolted – and not because they are the world’s greatest bagels (more than a few places in NYC would attack me if I even suggested that). It was because MD Bagel Fragel is a part of their past and present and they want it around in their future. The taste of the famous Fragel – a deep-fried raisin bagel tossed in cinnamon sugar – is a taste of their childhood. Maybe their grandma used to take them there, or they used to ride their bikes up to South University or Plymouth Road with all their friends, or it was the annual stop after church or before a football game.
I’m sure the Fragel has made more than a few appearances at a U-M football tailgate party.
Taste is one of the stronger senses of youth. It is a powerful reminder of those wonderful and innocent and simpler times. Buildings get torn down, woods you used to run around in and play capture the flag are now a subdivision, and Woolworths and Loblaws and Carrols Burgers and Tony’s Delicatessen and April Drugs are – as Ernie Harwell used to say – loooooong gone. So many great memories bulldozed away to create room for what? A parking lot?
When I return to Rochester these days the goal is to find enough things to do in between meals. We have Schaller’s (the best burgers), Abbott’s (the best ice cream/custard), Pontillo’s (the best pizza and real Buffalo chicken wings) and Jackson’s Bakery (yes, the best bakery). They are all still around and all must-stops on any visit.
Rochester also is the home to Wegman’s – ranked the No. 1 grocery store in the country. My wife used to laugh at me when I would brag about my hometown grocery store. She doesn’t laugh anymore. Every hometown needs something to be proud of. It used to be Kodak and Xerox in Rochester. It’s now a grocery store.
So forgive me if I don’t find the uproar to keep the local bagel shop going all that surprising. I get it.
Some things are worth fighting for even if you no longer live right around the block. My brother felt that the chocolate cream donuts at Jackson’s Bakery were worth fighting for. When he heard that the owner was selling the donut machine he called him personally and begged him not to – even though my brother was living in North Carolina at the time. He wanted that donut when he came home – it was a taste of his youth.
The Jackson’s Bakery donut didn’t make it. But thanks to an uproar of folks from all over Ann Arbor (and of course Patricia Rockette), the Bagel Fragel is back. And all those glorious memories right along with it.