Saturday, December 10, 2011


Handsome freelance writer told never to come back because wife inadvertently brings Starbucks cup into restaurant.
BELLINGHAM—In a bizarre exchange Saturday afternoon at a downtown Bellingham bagel emporium, the shop’s owner unleashed a stream of vitriol and bad tidings that recipient Mike McQuaide, a youthful-looking sort with prodigious hill-climbing skills on a bicycle, could only term “bizarre, weird, and really f***ed-up.”

“You’d think I told him his wife was fat and that I’d enjoy lying with his two daughters at the same time,” said McQuaide, who has no idea if the owner is even married or has children. (It’s merely a witty phony quote written for humorous effect.)

It all started when, after a downtown haircut and visits to a new skateboard shop and Starbucks, the McQuaide family—Mike, Jen and Baker—decided to visit the Bagelry for lunch. Mike McQuaide, who frequented the bagel shop daily when he was a Bellingham Herald reporter in the ‘90s, estimates that over the past two decades, he’s probably spent about $5,000 there.

After spending another $13 for bagels, drinks, and soup, the McQuaides settled into a seat by the window. Shortly thereafter, the owner, who just moments before had greeted them with a “Hey Mike, how’s it going?” approached them.

Anticipating further pleasantries, the McQuaides were instead surprised when the owner, in a not-at-all friendly tone—one that a fed-up teacher might take with an out-of- line student who won’t quit shooting spitballs—told Jen that he’d rather she not bring coffee from other establishments into his restaurant. (Jen had inadvertently carried her Starbucks cup into the bagel shop.) Though it was obviously a accidental one-time occurrence, the owner’s manner was as if Jen was in the habit of doing this three or four times a week. In short, he was rude.

“Crikey, you’d think she’d been shooting heroin in the restroom and fallen asleep on their toilet after vomiting all over the floor, the way he talked to her,” said Mike McQuaide.

When McQuaide approached the owner to express his opinion that the owner’s tone was perhaps inappropriate, the owner chose an alternative tack than the old saw ‘the customer is always right’. Three highlights from the owner’s angry vituperative response—all offered while nine-year-old Baker McQuaide stood nearby—were:

-“You’re an idiot!”

-“Don’t ever come back here!”

-“I’m putting a curse on you, Mike, that one day you own your own restaurant!”

(This last, McQuaide said afterward, was perhaps the most bizarre thing anyone had ever said to him; it kind of freaked him out.)

During the exchange McQuaide pointed out that the bagel shop owner’s hostility seemed a strange way to treat loyal customers in what are surely troubled economic times. The owner responded by saying that McQuaide wasn’t loyal and implied that the visit to Starbucks was emblematic of McQuaide’s flawed character and immorality.

“Gimme a break,” said McQuaide. “I’m as into the ‘Buy Local’ ethos as the next guy, but for some business owners, there seems to be bit of unreasonable entitlement behind it. Kind of a ‘Buy Local, or Else …’ mentality.”

Emotionally shaken the rest of Saturday, McQuaide began to feel better on Sunday after a three-hour mountain bike ride with John Clark. McQuaide even began considering ways to mend fences, as it were.

“With the holidays coming up, maybe I should get the owner of the Bagelry something for Christmas,” said McQuaide, who’s always thinking of others. “Perhaps he'd like a Starbucks gift card.”


  1. Alison W.4:24 PM

    You are not alone. Myself and 3 friends were also cursed by the Bagelry owner in May of 2007.

    Fortunately, we have yet to notice any ill effects minus an aversion to anything Bagelry related (this aversion has spread to friends and family).

    I don't find it too odd that he has chastised others for bringing coffee into his shop, but I was a little surprised that he regularly sets curses. I thought we were special.

  2. Wow, that's really freaky--what had you and your friends done to earn "the curse"?

  3. Next time (as if!) you might mention that word of mouth advertising is the BEST (and many cases the worst) advertising any business, especially restaurants, could hope for.

  4. Ya know Mike, thae owner on the Bagelry was nevere all that nice to me too. Dosen't make much sense (especially in there times) to piss on customers and potential customers. So count me out of the Bagelry frm now own - I'm goin' to Starbucks.

  5. The owner never treated me well either Mike, just another customer wanting to give him money. No more though - I'm off to Starbucks. Keep your stinkin' bagels. If I want a good bagel, I'll go to New York.

  6. David3:27 PM

    This guy sounds like the Bagel Nazi "No Bagels For You" ...I miss Seinfield more than I'll miss those Bagels. Instead of Starbucks I'll be hitting up The Black Drop.

  7. Well, for what it's worth, I'm on my 16th year of Bagelry boycott advocacy ever since I was kicked out by the owner for--get this!--eating both breakfast AND lunch there! Apparently, despite the half full restaurant, I was taking up too much space for too long. Never did get to finish my lunch...

    My ex wife has this to say in response to your post, which I forwarded to her: "You should contact this McQaide and let him know of your own experience with that crazy man. I’m proud to say, out of loyalty to you, I have never been into the bagelry since your own ugly confrontation with that idiot."

    So there you go...I think he puts bad juju in the bagels, anyhow.


  8. Matt,

    That's incredibly weird! I don't blame you at all; I'm about 15 years and 355 days behind you but our family has certainly begun its own Bagelry boycott. (This is one of those "Bye, Local!" situations.)

    Thanks for sharing.


  9. You know I have to be frank...the bagels are not that good. They do not toast them. Not good. Oh is that curse working out?

  10. Anonymous6:06 PM

    100% behind the boycott. Food not that great and too many stories. The last time I went in I ordered and then said "wait a minute cancel that, I forgot your a dick" and left.

  11. Actually, the bagels ARE that good, and you would honestly be hard pressed to find better in New York these days. And the owner is a slice of real New York. He has character, passion (yes, sometimes laced with vitriol) and he is a real honest businessman. He's a fixture of Bellingham and part of what makes the place UNIQUE. If you want the same predictable EVERYTHING, by all means, go to Starbucks and McWhatever. If you want something that's one of a kind, go to The Bagelry, The Black Cat, Colophon or another real Bellingham locale. It may not be the smoothest, most predictable experience, but at least it will be a real experience in a real place. And really, it's health code isn't it? Don't bring food from another establishment in? I seem to remember something like that. And like you said - you don't know anything about the owner (marriage, kids, etc.) and have no idea of the world HE lives in. I'm not sure how you could have frequented the bagelry all those years though and never might his wife and two children - they were there frequently. Ah well. I hope you all relax a little and go get yourself a bagel.

  12. I am surprised at you Mike for writing such garbage and encouraging others to rant. I am co-owner of the Bagelry and married to Ken. Why is it so hard to understand that bringing food from another establishment into our restaurant is just not cool? Some of the responses on this blog have noted they are going to the Black Drop. Well, would the Black Drop appreciate someone bringing in a Starbucks, or a bagel for that matter? I would never think of bringing a product from one restaurant into another! This kind of mentality is really limited to a small group. Most people respect and honor the sign we have on both doors - requesting that outside food not be brought into the cafe. We are not the only business with a sign like this. It is ridiculous to even have to have a sign like this. In NYC they would laugh that this is even an issue. As far as Ken having to approach you about this - do you think he enjoys this? Well he doesn't, but our business is closely held, it is not run by some corporate CEO in Seattle. We are a family and work very very hard. You ought to be ashamed of yourself for being vitriolic and rude yourself.

  13. Marg,
    Thanks for writing. I've always loved the Bagelry and truly enjoyed my visit today. I've always thought it's had such a great Bellingham vibe and since I'm leaving B'ham in a few weeks, I wanted to risk one last visit. It's still great! Sesame bagel with Italian cream cheese washed down with a C Monster--ah, sooo good!
    But, the above did happen to me, which was weird and odd, but now seems sort of funny. As a writer, I write about stuff that happens to me, sometimes for comic effect which in re-reading it now, I was certainly trying to do that then. I was going for the Onion-esque, phony-news-story tone.
    After that post, I was surprised when several people shared similar experiences that they'd had--being cursed, kicked out, etc.--and I wasn't comfortable with the negativity it seemed to be generating. So I took the post down. (I think this happened and I wrote about it in Dec. '09.)
    But today, I was in the mood for a Bagelry bagel--as I've often been over the past four years--and figured, screw it, I'm leaving in three weeks, I'm gonna go for it! So I did. And greatly enjoyed myself. And, this being the Facebook age, I posted about it. And well here we are again; I never wanted anyone to boycott the Bagelry. I wanted to share something that struck me as funny. Truth be told, I'd probably go to the Bagelry everyday for lunch until I leave if I was allowed to. Good luck, guys! I hope you're in business for a long time!

  14. Mike,

    Well thanks, I feel a lot better. Glad you still enjoy the Bagelry. I got an email from a customer today with a link to your blog saying she won't come in because we aren't nice., I didn't even know about the blog it until today! Have a great trip!