LOWER EAST SIDE — When Evan Giniger and Marc Halprin learned last April that the historic Kossar's Bialys bakery was up for sale on the Lower East Side, they had to have it.
"It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to own an iconic New York business," said Giniger, 48, whose background is in food branding and franchising. "Eighty-year-old businesses don't come up for sale often. They almost don't exist."
Since officially stepping in as owners last August, Giniger and Halprin say they have been balancing maintaining Kossar's heritage with improving the bakery's operations, including the production of traditional bagels and their Polish cousin, the bialy.
Kossar's, which opened on Clinton Street in the 1930s and moved to its current Grand Street spot in 1960, is the area's last remaining bagel and bialy bakery out of dozens that once dotted the neighborhood.
"What we really wanted to do is save this for future generations to enjoy," said Halprin, who has 15 years of experience distributing baked goods.
"We are very careful to do things properly. That's all we care about," he added.
Halprin uses the word "obsessed" to describe his knowledge of bagels and baking. Based on his research, he has initiated a few changes to Kossar's generations-old method, bringing in the highest quality of unbleached flour, retraining staff and making bialys in five batches each day instead of just one.
"We are timing our baking to bake more often, to serve our customers the freshest product possible," Halprin said. "The process of the bialy is all about timing and letting the dough rest properly."
Halprin and Giniger raised eyebrows last year when they added Saturday hours to the kosher bakery, which had traditionally been closed on the Jewish Sabbath.
"Saturdays was an important component to our business model," Giniger, an Upper West Side resident, said of the decision he and Halprin made a month before finalizing their purchase of the store.
"It's a business. We had to make sure we could pay our bills," Halprin said.
Even though it's open on Saturdays now, the store has kept its kosher status under the supervision of local rabbi Shmuel Fishelis by using a practice called shtar mechirah. Each Friday at sundown, Halprin and Giniger transfer ownership of Kossar's Bialys to their non-Jewish business partner David Zablocki and reverse the procedure on Saturday evenings.
"The main thing is the ingredients need to remain kosher. That's 7-24," Fishelis said.
Giniger said a "much-needed facelift" of the business' 367 Grand St. location could also be on the horizon.
"The store has been here since the 1960s and some parts look exactly the same as it did then," he said.
The owners declined to elaborate on their plans to revamp the shop.
Since Halprin and Giniger have a background in food branding and national distribution, they have also hinted at broader prospects for Kossar's in the future.
"There is a demand for high-quality bagels beyond New York," Giniger said.
In addition to the Grand Street store, Kossar's products are stocked in Zabar's, some Fairway supermarkets and at numerous cafes and restaurants in the city. Small online orders can also be shipped around the country.
"We want to walk before we run," Halprin said.