Web Exclusive | March 2011 | By Lori Zanteson

Larry King ‘Brooklynizes’ Beverly Hills

Famed interviewer and Original Brooklyn Water Bagel Co. franchisee opens his first unit.

Beverly Hills rolled out the red carpet for the March 17 grand-opening event of the West Coast’s first Original Brooklyn Water Bagel Co. store. The Boca Raton, Florida–based quick serve received a celebrity’s welcome not only for its proprietary equipment that re-creates Brooklyn water for its bagel recipe, but also for its franchisee responsible for the new storefront: Larry King.

King and the company’s founder, Steve Fassberg, welcomed a steady stream of media and curious passers-by during an all-day opening and evening gala that celebrated King’s first Southern California Original Brooklyn Water Bagel unit.

From his high-profile work on Larry King Live and celebrity status, one might expect to see this Hollywood icon at the helm of a white-tablecloth restaurant rather than a quick-service bagel shop. Not so, King says.

“This is me,” he says. “A regular guy, not a limo guy. I’m a bagel-with-cream-cheese-and-lox guy, and this is a good marriage. It’s right up my alley.”

King also says he likes that Original Brooklyn Water Bagel, and the quick-serve industry as a whole, is more of a “people business” because he enjoys being around people and getting to know them.

King says that when he was approached with the concept about a year ago, he was drawn to the Brooklyn connection and the “delicious and familiar” taste of the bagels that he says are nostalgic of his childhood years growing up in Brooklyn. He was also intrigued by the concept of the water, recalling an interview he once did with Harvard water experts who said New York had the best water. He attended the opening of the first unit in Delray Beach, Florida, and soon joined the company.

As a franchisee and national spokesman, King will help boost expansion into the Southern California territory and promote the company in print, radio, and Internet advertising. He will also hold court three to four mornings a week in the official “Larry King booth” at the Beverly Hills store reserved especially for King and his guests.

Fassberg says the company is out to convince Southern Californians and the rest of the U.S. that the Brooklyn bagel will make them “fagettabout” all other bagels, and that the addition of King should certainly help.

“There’s something unique about New York and food,” Fassberg says. “It can’t be replicated.”

That is, until now. Fassberg says The Original Brooklyn Water Bagel Co. has the technology to “Brooklynize” the water, making it possible to replicate authentic Brooklyn bagels anywhere in the world. Each store has its own water treatment system and uses only the water it bottles on the premises for everything from bagels and muffins to coffee, soda, and ice cubes.

“I’m a regular guy, not a limo guy. I’m a bagel-with-cream-cheese-and-lox guy, and this is a good marriage.”

Founded in 2009, The Original Brooklyn Water Bagel Co. has aggressive plans for expansion in the works. King’s franchise kicks off the West Coast expansion in the star-studded town of Beverly Hills, which happens to be the home of many Brooklyn and East Coast natives.

Fassberg says a typical Original Brooklyn Water Bagel unit sells 400–500 dozen bagels in a typical day. Armed with Larry King as a franchisee and national spokesperson, he says the bagel company is poised to replicate that success across the country.

“California never had a quality bagel,” Fassberg says. “Water changes the flavor profile. You can’t recreate recipes with other water. California water is bad if you look at it in a laboratory. It can take the paint off your car. It will kill yeast.”

On the red carpet at the grand-opening gala, guests were served bottles of Original Brooklyn Water Bagel’s water, cocktails, and tastes of its signature cupcakes, muffins, and bagel sandwiches. King greeted guests with his wife, Shawn, and their two sons.

The stainless steel water tank, part of the water technology system, served as a popular gathering spot for attendees who were able to watch the bagel-making process displayed behind clear glass.

At the ribbon-cutting ceremony, King was surprised with a replica Brooklyn Bridge presented by the Brooklyn Borough president via video, and the mayor of Beverly Hills declared March 18—the official first day of business for the unit—Brooklyn Water Bagel Day.

If things go as planned, many cities up and down the West Coast will be similarly “Brooklynized.”

“We have the McDonald’s system for bagels,” Fassberg says. “It’s a quick concept to learn for anybody from a high school kid to a franchisee. Larry King made perfect bagels in one day. No matter who touches it, it comes out perfect.

“Bagels are no longer ethnic, they’re global.”