All things come... Ten years later, a Corner Bodo's

It's 6:59am at the front door of a University Avenue storefront, and there's a gaggle of about 20 people standing under a sign that reads "Bodo's." But one eager patron has clearly arrived a bit earlier than the rest.

"I've been here since 3:30 this morning," says 24-year-old Deke Shipp.

If his name sounds familiar, there's a reason. This former Bodo's employee served as a sort of Deep Throat in the Hook's March 2002 cover story on the strangely unopened bagel bakery in the UVA business district known as the Corner.

"The Corner store will never open," Shipp proclaimed back then. But that was only year seven. Three more years passed with the fully equipped store bathed in darkness.

But here it is Wednesday, June 15, a bright spring morning, and Bodo's owner Brian Fox has unlocked the door. Without fanfare, he holds the door open so the first customers can file into the third jewel in his bagel crown at 7am.

Is anyone surprised when Fox moans, "We weren't really ready"?

After somehow managing to spend 10 years readying his restaurant and annoying what seemed to be everyone in town, Fox is the star of the day. But Shipp's early arrival is causing its own buzz.

"We showed up this morning at 6:30, and he was already camped out," says second-in-line Elizabeth Vance. "We were hoping to be #1, but he's really hard-core. He deserves it."

As the 2002 Hook story related, anyone who arrives early enough to secure the first order of any day at any Bodo's might want to laminate his ticket. What will Shipp do with the little white slip he's just secured on B-Day? Shipp jokes that he'll have it up on eBay before the day is out.

But wait! The ticket– where is it?

In all the excitement, Shipp has absent-mindedly treated his order of two dozen bagels as just any old take-out.

"Oh, my God," Shipp exclaims, fishing the ticket deep out of a pants pocket. "I just crumpled it up." Ticket #001 is now the size of a spitball. So much for eBay.

UVA classes ended more than a month ago, but rising second year student Patrick Martinez, 18, left his home in Manassas this morning at 5:30am to be here. "I figure it's only going to open once," Martinez says.

"I've watched all these years, and even peeked in the darkened windows," admits Elizabeth Lynch, 52. She's among the growing throng who just can't believe that this day has actually come.

"I was bartending at the Virginian," relates author Coy Barefoot of that May day in 1995 when he heard that a third Bodo's was in the works. "Bob Mincer was standing out on the sidewalk in front of Mincer's. And he said, 'Guess who just rented the Kinko's space that has been sitting empty?'"

Previous Bodo's incarnations opened on Emmet Street (1988) and Preston Avenue (1993). Since Fox began renting the Corner location, the adjacent building has switched from a gift shop called Arnette's to a caffeinery called Starbucks. And class after class of Wahoos have gone from matriculation to graduation without being able to get a deli egg on onion on the Corner.

Along the way there have been false alarms, April Fool's jokes, a "Coming... promise" Halloween costume, and even a boycott. And through it all, Fox's willingness to pay rent on a fully equipped but idle business has created a firestorm of debate over his motives. And over his reluctance.

"The Corner store is going to be the flagship, the store that everyone thinks about when they think Bodo's, dude," Shipp opined in 2002. "It has to be perfect. It has to be perfect times four."

Fox, 60, says there's no obsessive/compulsive disorder, shocking tax dodge, or other nefarious explanation for the infuriating phenomenon. "It was never a plan to postpone it," says Fox. "It was always season by season, and it never felt right."

He says this is just a case of a man who lost his marriage and his ambition. "When I was done educating my kids and didn't have a wife anymore," explains Fox, "I couldn't find the ambition."

So what changed? Fox pauses. "I don't know how much it has to do with it, but now I have grandchildren. It gives a little push to things because I want to help them out."

His daughter Naomi helped him out back when she was a 26-year-old artist living in New York. For about a year, she traveled to Charlottesville to paint the college-scene murals that some patrons compare favorably to murals at UVA. Naomi, now 33, studies film animation instead of painting restaurant walls.

The four booths and 18 tables in this venue feature solid mahogany construction with what appears to be a gymnasium floor's worth of clear, glimmering varnish.

"I'm pretty protective of that," says a voice. But it's not Fox. It's John Kokola, a 35-year-old employee since 1992. He says he's the one who applied "about 60 coats" of varnish, each separated by a light sanding– "all put on by hand."

Twelve hours after the opening salvo, they're still selling bagels. It's now 7:08pm, and a reporter finds that he's order #961. Since many numbers represent multiple orders, well over 1,000 people have come through today, including the man who strolls up and yells out to no one in particular: "Do you believe this?"

Is Fox on edge?

Bodo's employee Matt Datesman doesn't think so. "I think he's relieved," says the optimist.

Andrew D'Huyvetter, who graduated a month ago, met up with eight friends from the Phi Sigma Pi honor fraternity for the occasion. "My roommate's older sister, who graduated in '03, said, 'Surely Bodo's will open by the time you graduate. But she was mistaken."

Well, only by a month.

Customer number one Deke Shipp, right, celebrates with Bodo's owner Brian Fox.

Shipp, circa 6am on B-Day.


Phi Sigma Pi rendezvoused for early-morning bagels.

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