GREENWICH, CT — Lenny's Bagels has been open in Greenwich for nearly two weeks, a fact that is just starting to sink in for Richard Damato.
After moving almost immediately from construction to opening, the co-owner finally has time to enjoy that the new location is up and running. (To sign up for Greenwich breaking news alerts and more, click here.)
"It was surreal almost," Damato said. "I didn't really even get a chance to enjoy the fact that we finished the construction process because we kind of just jumped right into opening, and then it was like a whole new era...there was really no time to enjoy it."
Lenny's Bagels offers customers over 20 varieties of fresh-made bagels, which can be topped with a wide selection of spreads.
"The bagels are made fresh every morning," Damato said. "We make the dough every day, and it needs at least 24 hours to rise...and they're fresh all day until we close."
The store also offers a number of specialty egg sandwiches and breakfast bowls, as well as coffee.
Damato co-owns the new bagel shop with his brother, Steven, and father, Lenny. Located on East Putnam Avenue in the Cos Cob area of town, the shop is the Damato family's first location in Connecticut, with two other shops operating in Rye Brook and Pelham, N.Y.
"A lot of our customers from Rye Brook live in Greenwich," Damato said, "so they used to come in and recommend we open [a store] in Greenwich."
The area made a lot of sense for their third location, given its proximity to the other stores.
"When we pulled up the map a couple of years ago to look for new spots, Greenwich kind of stood out," Damato said. "We live in Stamford, and the other stores are in Westchester, so you kind of have to pass Greenwich to get to the other stores."
Though the location seemed to be a perfect fit, the process of opening up the shop was hardly easy, according to Damato.
"There were a lot of challenges opening up this location," Damato said, "stemming from town approvals to dealing with contractors and various supply people and getting everything done correctly. There were a lot of parts to this project. It was a bit complicated, but it came together in the end."
The coronavirus also delayed the process of opening the store, though Damato noted they were prepared to open with proper safety protocols after putting them in place at their other two stores.
"Since [COVID-19] hit in March, we already took the precautions at our other two locations and kind of got used to it. So when we opened up this location, it was kind of just like another day at the office."
Damato said the owners quickly acquired masks and extra sanitizer for the new Greenwich location, and stickers were placed on the floor to guide social distancing.
"Obviously we need to make sure that everyone is staying safe in the store," Damato said, "social distancing and wearing masks, but so far so good. It's been pretty smooth."
Greenwich Chamber of Commerce president Marcia O'Kane said she was pleased to see the new bagel shop had opened despite the challenges presented by COVID-19.
"The chamber is delighted that Lenny's Bagels has finally opened despite the challenge of COVID-19 altering their original opening plans," O'Kane said. "They are bringing a New York-style experience to Greenwich, which creates another diverse dining option for our town."
According to Damato, customer feedback thus far has been positive, and they are even starting to see some regular faces.
"We've had a really good turnout so far," Damato said. "Customers have been really nice and supportive. We've received a lot of compliments from them, and I think they've enjoyed the product so far."
Though they are still getting settled and making sure things continue to run smoothly in Greenwich, Damato said the family "absolutely" planned on opening more locations in Connecticut, specifically in Fairfield County, should they have the opportunity.
"There's still going to be some growing pains here [in Greenwich]," Damato said. "Once we're settled in and we know things are running very smoothly, then we might start thinking about another location, but it's not going to happen any time soon."
For now, Damato is taking a moment to finally enjoy the fact that the Cos Cob store is up and running, and that customers are already responding positively.
"We're so thrilled to be here and finally open," Damato said. "We're so happy to see that the customers are satisfied and enjoying our product. It's really nice to be appreciated. It's a lot of hard work...and we just look forward to continuing the success we've had so far."