Chick-fil-A is finally coming to Hauppauge, though the last store operating where the corporate company intends to build doesn’t see much of a reason to celebrate.
“We knew it was going to happen, but of course it’s very sad because we’ve been there for over 30 years,” said Donna Ahr, matriarch of the family-run Bagel Gallery Inc., locally known as Hot Bagels in Hauppauge and Smithtown.
The bagel shop is the last store that remains open in the doomed shopping plaza.
“We knew it was going to happen, but of course it’s very sad because we’ve been there for over 30 years.”
— Donna Ahr
The Town of Smithtown town council conditionally approved the site plan for the restaurant chain to demolish the existing 15,743-square-foot shopping center at the corner of Route 347 and Route 111 in Hauppauge to make room for a 4,650-square-foot counter-service restaurant.
The round-the-clock open bagel shop has endured in that location since 1980, owned and operated by the Ahr family since 1985. In 2016, local residents got wind that Chick-fil-A was intending to tear down the shopping center where Hot Bagels was located to put in one of its restaurants. In the months that followed, close to 5,000 people signed a Change.org petition to try and keep Hot Bagels around. Though the fast-food chain won its petition for a zoning change two years ago to create a drive-thru, the restaurant’s site plans were only approved this month.
“I got a year and half more out of it than I originally thought I would, so God is good,” Ahr said.
The location houses two shopping centers, both of which are independently owned. Those stores in the building directly opposite the impending Chick-fil-A fear what could happen once construction begins.
“It’s going to kill my business, or at least hurt my business with all the construction going on.”
— Tony Barbato
“It’s going to kill my business, or at least hurt my business with all the construction going on,” said Tony Barbato, the owner of Ciro’s Pizza located at 550 Route 347. “I think the chicken shop coming in is the stupidest thing ever. Everybody in that shopping center was pretty successful, but then they threw everybody out so they could send more money to [a national corporation] instead of keeping it local.”
In February 2018, the Ahr family opened up a second location along Hauppauge Road in Smithtown, a little less than two miles from their original storefront. Even though Ahr and her family appreciate that many of their loyal customers will still be sticking around, their old location is where the family holds many of their fondest memories.
“It will be a very sad thing when the store goes because as much as people love the new location its still not the store that we all grew up in; my customers, me, my kids, my customers kids,” she said.
The approved Chick-fil-A site plans call for a reconfiguration of the parking lot surrounding both current shopping centers to allow for drive- thru access and additional spaces.
““It will be a very sad thing when the store goes because as much as people love the new location its still not the store that we all grew up in.”
— Donna Ahr
Al Amato, founder of the Garden City-based Amato Law Group, PLLC, who is representing Chick-fil-A, attended the Sept. 20 meeting and said both locations would provide an adequate amount of parking individually, and that the new property would not block access to the other shopping center. Neither Amato nor a representative of Chick-fil-A were available to say when demolition on the old structure and construction of the new restaurant will begin.
In the meantime, Bagel Gallery is the last store in that shopping center that remains open. Ahr said she has been notified a tentative date to move out is Nov.10. She said she hopes to host a going away party for their old shop before they have to close for good.
“When I do have the exact date I want to do [something] special,” Ahr said. “They will tear it down in front of our eyes, and we’re all going to cry.”