New Milford couple opening bagel shop: ‘Created pretty much from scratch’

NEW MILFORD — Feel like a sesame seed or cinnamon raisin bagel? What about a za’atar bagel?

There’s a new bagel place coming to town that will make all its own bagels on site, daily. There will be many standards, with some more unusual ones sprinkled in as well.

The store, located inside the Red Barn at 312 Danbury Road, is called Bagel Barn and will open in early December. It’s owned by town residents Diane and Mitch Klaif.

The Klaifs will carry about a dozen types of bagels including Everything, Sesame Seed, Rosemary, Poppy Seed, and Za’atar, which is a middle eastern flavor.

Specialty kinds of bagels such as pizza bagels and hot dog bagels will also be offered.

The shop will sell espresso, cappuccino and lattes, and will be brewing coffee on premises. They’ve partnered with Sacred Grounds Coffee Roasters in Sherman, where the business has “developed a proprietary coffee blend for Bagel Barn,” said Diane Klaif, 65.

Bagged coffee beans that can be ground will also be sold.

Additionally, the store will offer lunch sandwiches including tuna and egg salad, and turkey and cheese. Also for sale will be yogurt parfaits, fresh fruit cups, muffins and brownies. Breakfast sandwiches will include bacon, egg and cheese.

Career change

Mitch Klaif, who is 64, is retired from his prior position as chief information officer at WarnerMedia. He previously worked for Time Warner, Time Inc. and The Wall Street Journal. The couple, who has three grown children, previously lived full-time in New Jersey. They moved into their New Milford home in October 2020 due to the pandemic.

While this is the first time the Klaifs will be business owners, Mitch’s parents owned clothing stores in Manhattan and New Jersey, and he spent much of his childhood growing up in them.

“He has always wanted to do a small business of some sort,” his wife said.

The idea

Klaif said her work on various boards and committees in town such as the Board of Finance, Riverfront Revitalization, and Plan of Conservation and Development, has “opened” her eyes “to what people in New Milford want.”

Through surveys the town sends out, she learned the four types of businesses most residents expressed a need for is a shoe store, a craft store, a steak restaurant, and a bagel store.

While she joked she has never baked a bagel in her life, she said a bagel store most appealed to her.

A week after deciding to open a bagel business, in April, the couple grew even more motivated about their plans while watching a woman named Beth George on a TV show being profiled about her bagel making method.

She “developed a proprietary method for baking bagels and a series of highly confidential recipes for various kinds of bagels,” Diane Klaif said.

The Klaifs reached out to George, who they contracted to teach them to make bagels. They attended three days of “bagel school” in New Jersey, given by George.

“We paid her to teach us her methodology,” Diane Klaif said, adding they learned how to alter her recipes to create additional kinds.

“Our bagels are crunchy and crispy and bubbly on the outside,” Klaif added. “The inside is soft and chewy, yet not bready.”

Choosing the location

Klaif said she chose the location for the business very carefully.

“We didn’t want to move into a strip mall type of location,” Klaif said. “We wanted our place to be a destination.”

The location they chose was previously occupied by the Art of Body Waxing, which is now at nearby 35 Danbury Road.

They decided the store needed to have “some element of fun,” she said. “This is an old barn. We decided to keep it as much of that barny flavor as we possibly could.”

The Klaifs took down the dropped ceiling and behind it, there was very old barn wood, which they had cleaned.

Inside the business, the Klaifs have set up a community room, which can be reserved for meetings and birthday parties.

The store has three tables indoors and will be offering outdoor seating in the spring. Klaif said she would also love to have a food truck at some point.

When hiring staff, she said she’s being very “community minded” and plans to hire only local tradespeople.

She has already hired local logo designers, sign makers, painters, and plumbers.

Mitch Klaif said he’s looking forward to something he and his wife “created pretty much from scratch.”

“It’s really our sweat,” she said, adding a bagel business “is something that everybody in town seems to want and is excited about.”

He compared his prior positions in business with his new chapter.

“I was a manager of people primarily for 40 years. I got things done, organizations moving, and it’s so much fun to use those skills on a small business level. People are people. If you respect them, they respect you,” he said.

The shop will be open for breakfast and lunch, from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. five days a week and eventually switch to seven days a week.

The Klaifs are planning a soft opening in mid-November with a grand opening Dec. 1 or 2.