Although he's been churning out bagels for almost his whole life, Harold Harkavy said he has no plans to retire anytime soon.
As Wheeling's Chicago Bagel and Bialy celebrates it's 30th anniversary this year, Harold and his wife Sharon are looking back at their life and thankful for the customers who keep coming in by the baker's dozens.
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"I can't believe how much time has passed," Sharon said. "For a family-owned business to still be around, it means a lot."
When Chicago Bagel and Bialy first opened in 1982, Harold brought his father's recipe from New York to his new restaurant at Dundee and Schoenbeck roads. In 2000, they moved to their new Restaurant Row location at 260 S. Milwaukee Ave.
While the Harkavys' recipe has stayed the same over the past 30 years, their competition has changed to include many more chain stores, such as Panera Bread and Einstein Bros Bagels.
"All the corporations have taken over now, but those aren't real bagels," said Sharon, a staunch small business supporter. "We still make them the old-fashioned way; we boil them and put them on bagel boards"
That old-time recipe makes the bagels crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside, the owners said.
Harold, who just turned 63, still wakes up and gets to the restaurant, which is open 365 days a year, early every morning.
"You can't be in the restaurant business if you don't love it," he said.
And the Harkavys do love it. Harold joked that he wanted to live on top of the business, but Sharon turned that idea down. The couple, married 18 years, live in Palatine.
Aside from the bagels, still sold on special on Tuesday, the restaurant serves a variety of deli sandwiches, lox, salads and desserts.
Sharon said she considers the regulars who come in daily or weekly part of her family, and that a successful relationship is all about loyalty.
"We appreciate them and they appreciate us," she said.
Bruce Gorlick, of Riverwoods, said he's been coming to Chicago Bagel and Bialy at least every other week since they opened. Gorlick keeps coming back for "the great service, the great bagels and great friends."
Over the past several years, Chicago Bagel and Bialy has seen a decrease in business.
"Everyone was hit by the economy and we're no different," said Sharon. "We're treading water like anyone else."
But longtime customers have nothing to fear.
"We're here because they're here, and we intend to stick it out," Sharon said. "We could have been gone a long time ago, but the customers kept us going. There's no way we're retiring anytime soon; we've got corned beef running through our veins."