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H&H Bagel Fan Plans Rally To Save 80th Street Store

By Leslie Albrecht | June 27, 2011 10:48am | Updated on June 27, 2011 5:33pm

By Leslie Albrecht

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

UPPER WEST SIDE — With famed H&H Bagels poised to serve its last bagel any day now, one Upper West Sider is leading the charge to save the neighborhood icon.

James Besser, a 56-year-old freelance opera conductor and pianist, is holding a rally to "save" H&H Bagels at 7 p.m. Monday at Riverside Park's North Lawn, near the 79th Street entrance.

Besser, who's lived at West 80th Street and Riverside Drive for 30 years, told DNAinfo he doesn't know exactly how he or other community members could save the store — which reportedly owes $300,000 in back rent — from closing.

But Besser said he wanted to take a stand because he's heard that H&H's corner storefront will be replaced by a bank. A stack of fliers advertising his rally sat next to the cash register at H&H bagels' 80th street store, which was open for business Monday morning,

"What we're doing is making a line in the sand and saying no more," Besser told DNAinfo. "We're going to use this as an example that big corporations aren't welcome on the Upper West Side. There are too many banks on the Upper West Side, and not enough bagels."

Free bagels will be served at the rally, according to an email Besser sent to supporters.

H&H Bagels is reportedly closing any day now, thought its owners haven't confirmed when the 39-year-old West 80th and Broadway store would permanently shutter.

An employee at the H&H Bagels store said Monday morning she didn't know exactly when the store would close. "We don't know for sure," she said. "It could be today, it could be tomorrow."

News of its impending depature sent shockwaves through the Upper West Side, where generations have built their Sunday morning routines around a trip to H&H to fetch freshly baked bagels.

But the company has faced a series of troubles in recent years. Owner Helmer Toro pleaded guilty to tax fraud and was sentenced to jail last year.