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Yesterday was like many Sunday afternoons: I planned a long bike ride around ending up at the Bagel Bakery on Minnesota Avenue NE near Benning Road, looking forward to a healthy and satisfying late lunch in this lamentably bagel-poor town. To my great dismay, I arrived to find the windows empty, and a note on the door: “We have decided to close this chapter of our lives and pursue other interests,” it read, in grainy type. “We will close our establishment permanently effective Monday, January 10th, 2011.”
And there goes one of the best casual dining options east of the river, which can’t really afford the loss.
Sure, Bagel Bakery was just a franchise of the Chesapeake Bagel Bakery chain, which has at least a dozen locations in the region. But it didn’t feel like it. Owner Caple Green started the shop with the help of the Marshall Heights Community Development Corporation and East River Park Inc. back in 1995, and for a decade and a half it served many of the employees in nearby banks, health clinics and government offices looking for something better than Domino’s or Popeyes for lunch. It even had a profit sharing arrangement for employees, which might explain why the staff always felt more like family than wage laborers. The large space, a former bank, doubled as something of a community center, with enough booths for kids to hang out for hours doing homework. (And it’s a good example of the kind of chains I think we could use more of).
I “discovered” the Bagel Bakery on my first ride over the Anacostia last spring—having no idea what I’d be able to find to eat, the shop was a welcome and surprising sight: Real bagels, baked in-house, with as full a deli counter as you’re likely to find in the D.C. area. I got my bagel to go, and ate it in Fort Dupont Park. My last time there was January 8th, which I remember because I was getting up to leave when I read on my phone that Rep. Gabby Giffords had been shot. That afternoon will now exist as a doubly sad memory.