For the better part of the past decade in San Francisco, Wise Sons Delicatessen has been the standard bearer for a new wave of hip, modern Jewish deli food — and, for many in the city, the go-to source for challah, bagels, and pastrami on rye. During that same time, Beauty’s Bagel Shop has seen similar success in the East Bay: Before the pandemic, the weekend brunch lines at its Temescal shop were notoriously long, and its wood-fired, Montreal-inspired bagels routinely topped various best Bay Area bagel lists.
Now, the two companies have joined forces. Wise Sons purchased Beauty’s at the beginning of August, acquiring both of the bagel shops’ Oakland storefronts and merging two of the most prominent players in the Bay Area’s bagel and Jewish food scenes. Perhaps the biggest upshot of the acquisition: The Uptown Oakland location of Beauty’s, which has been closed since the start of the pandemic, will reopen in September as a Wise Sons — the company’s first East Bay outpost. And both brands will debut a brand new bagel recipe.
Meanwhile, Beauty’s original Temescal storefront reopened quietly last week with a full menu of familiar favorites — but also bags of Wise Sons challah, babka, and sliced rye, and, perhaps most notably, Wise Sons smoked pastrami available for purchase by the pound. According to Wise Sons co-owner Evan Bloom, there are no plans to change the restaurant’s name or, really, very much at all about the shop. “It’s always going to be Beauty’s Bagel Shop,” he says.
For Wise Sons, the benefits of the acquisition are obvious. The addition of two East Bay storefronts to Wise Sons’ five existing Bay Area locations (plus a Tokyo bagel shop that opened in 2018) makes the newly formed Wise Sons/Beauty’s team a formidable force.
What Beauty’s stands to gain, like so much movement in the restaurant world these days, has to do with COVID-19. Both of its storefronts have been have mostly closed during the pandemic (though its original Telegraph Avenue shop did weekly bagel pickups for a while). Given the uncertainties in trying to run a small business at this time, Beauty’s co-owner Blake Joffe says, “This is the best outcome we could hope for right now — because who the heck knows what’s going to happen moving forward?”
But Joffe says the truth is that he and partner Amy Remsen were exploring the idea of selling the business to Wise Sons even pre-COVID. As Beauty’s had grown as a company, adding its second shop in 2018, it was never really able to offer the kind of “structures” that it wanted to be able to provide for its employees — things like a robust HR program and stronger behind-the-scenes operational systems that Wise Sons, as a larger company, is able to provide. Wise Sons has also been able to weather the coronavirus crisis relatively well — “we’re losing less money than many,” Bloom says. And so, joining the Wise Sons fold provides a bit more security for Beauty’s employees and ownership.
Perhaps the biggest factor, Joffe says, is that Beauty’s and Wise Sons came up together in the early 2010s and have frequently collaborated over the years. (“Blake taught me how to scramble eggs,” Bloom says.) Joffe and Remsen knew that Wise Sons’ owners liked Beauty’s the way it was and wanted to preserve the things that made it great — signature items like its scrapple, fried chicken sandwich, and chocolate chip cookie, but also its role as a neighborhood staple. “If another buyer came along, I don’t know if that would have happened,” Joffe says.
That’s not to say that there won’t be any changes. Both Joffe and Remsen will assume new roles within Wise Sons, with Remsen as a “manager of people and culture” and Joffe as the new culinary director for the restaurant group. One of his first tasks? To revamp the Beauty’s and Wise Sons bagels themselves — probably the most obvious example of product overlap between the two brands — creating a single master recipe.
Joffe says the new bagels will mostly be a tweak on the Beauty’s recipe. One difference is that they’ll no longer be baked in the wood-burning oven that was one of the Oakland shop’s calling cards. That oven baked beautiful bagels, Joffe explains, but was, in many ways, the bane of his existence — finicky and labor-intensive, requiring 12-hour shifts that started at midnight. Apart from that difference, Joffe says the bagels should be quite similar to the ones that Beauty’s customers are used to: The dough will still be cold-fermented; the bagels should have a crisp, well-blistered exterior; and seeded bagels will be seeded on both sides, in the Montreal style. For Wise Sons customers, it’ll be a brand new bagel.
Bloom says customers will also see Beauty’s menu items begin to show up at Wise Sons locations — their fried chicken bagel sandwich, for instance, and their chicken breakfast sausage, which he cites as one of his personal favorites. And he’s hoping the new Uptown Oakland Wise Sons, at 1700 Franklin Street, will be ready to open before the Jewish high holidays in September. According to Bloom, the plan is open seven days a week — for takeout only at first, of course. But he envisions that it’ll be a weekday lunch spot for Reubens and pastrami burgers, and also a brunch destination and a place to pick up a dozen bagels to bring home.
For bagel obsessives and people who crave Jewish comfort food, Bloom sees the merger as a net win. “The whole Jewish food movement, we all know each other,” he says. “The success of one is the success of everyone.“
Beauty’s Bagel Shop is now open daily from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. (menu below). The new Oakland branch of Wise Sons will open at 1700 Franklin Street sometime in September — it, too, will be open every day.