Bagels! Bagels! Corner Bodo's to open (promise)

Did you hear the news? The Corner Bodo's is opening! No, really. Seriously! We swear, it's opening! Oh, why won't anyone believe us?

Bodo's owner Brian Fox told the Hook earlier this week that he'll finally do the unthinkable and open his Corner store. If the announcement is met with disbelief, it's understandable. After all, Fox is the man who cried bagel.

It was back in 1995 when Fox, who already had two Bodo's locations– on Preston Avenue and Emmet Street– signed a lease for the former Kinko's spot on the Corner. Massive renovations immediately ensued, and a sign went up teasing, "Coming soon!"

And he teased... and teased... and teased. Eventually Fox added the word "promise."

But he broke his promise. Nearly a decade and many tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in rent later, the teasing has continued, and the Corner Bodo's has become a local legend, the impetus for a Bodo's boycott, and a laughingstock, the butt of many jokes.

Last year, a UVA student played a cruel April Fool's prank by plastering signs all over the Corner and UVA Grounds promising free bagels. Eager bagel lovers showed up early for the promised treats, only to find a locked door. But this year, Fox says, it's no joke.

"It will happen," he promises. Though no opening date is set (hmmmm....), Fox says he hopes it will be in the next two months. The only obstacle, he insists, is hiring and training staff.

"I could do it within the next few weeks if I had staff and everything ready to go," says Fox.

There are signs that suggest this time might be for real.

Fox says he's received his Certificate of Occupancy from the city, and he's placed ads for shift managers and bakers to help staff the store.

"I've never done that before," he says. In fact, he points out, he's never announced an imminent opening before: he's only responded to reporters' questions about an opening with vague "someday" answers.

But more important than the Certificate or the want ads, Fox says, is his frame of mind.

"The time is right," he explains, "in both my business life and personal life. I have good crews. I feel optimistic."

The news thrills some Corner merchants.

"I would say I'm cautiously optimistic," says Mincer's owner Mark Mincer, who says he's heard the talk of a Bodo's opening countless times. That it's coming straight from Fox makes this time different.

"If he told you that," Mincer explains, "I would think it's true."

The opening, Mincer says, would be good news for all area merchants, who would benefit from an influx of bagel eaters. "A rising tide raises all boats," says Mincer.

Janet Heath, general manager at Michael's Bistro, agrees. And while she doesn't think it will affect her business, she expresses some concern about "some of the more sandwichy places," such as Littlejohn's and Take it Away.

But those sandwichy places are delighted.

"We're glad to have them," says Take it Away owner Tom Bowe.

And Littlejohn's manager Ruth Monroe, on the staff for 25 years, says she has no competition concerns. "We don't lose a lot of business because we're so fast-paced," she explains. "People appreciate being able to get in and out so quick."

Monroe says she's been waiting for the opening. "We've been really curious," she laughs.

Just what did cause the decade of delays?

Fox, who will turn 60 next month, says that the last 10 years have been tough, in particular a mid-'90s divorce and the subsequent rebuilding of his life.

He didn't want to put in 60 or 70 hours a week, and feared if he spread himself too thin by opening the third store, it would cause a decrease in quality at the other two.

"I didn't want to sacrifice anything about my current stores or my life in order to do something that doesn't seem right," he says. "It seems right now, and I feel good about it."

What he says he doesn't feel good about is how long people have had to wait.

"I feel apologetic towards people who've waited," he says. "I never wanted to create suspense or consternation."

What he may, in fact, have created is a bit more Pavlovian.

When told of the impending opening, UVA third year David Lee has a quick response. "I think it's about damn time," he says, "because I've been salivating every time I walk by there."

For those who will believe it only when they see it (or taste it), Fox doesn't judge.

"That's very understandable," he says. "But I can't see anything standing in the way at this point."

Let's hope not, or Fox could end up with an egg bagel on his face.

This story is a part of the Waiting for Bodo special.
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