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March 21: The Man Who Froze Bagels

March 20, 2015
120327_$BOX_murrayLender.jpg.CROP.article250-mediumMurray Isaac Lender, who with his brothers Sam and Marvin turned their immigrant father Harry’s Connecticut bagel business into a nationwide wholesaler by freezing pre-sliced bagels and selling them in supermarkets (beginning in 1960), died at 81 on this date in 2012. Lender’s Bagels introduced many Americans to the bagel and was the primary force responsible for its ubiquity today. The company was sold to Kraft Foods in 1984. “The vision,” Lender told the New York Times in 1996,“was to really get it out of the ethnic market.” So they did: In the year of Lender’s death, more than 23 million bags of Lender’s Bagels were sold. “To be sure, it was Harry who started the transformation when he bought a large freezer in the 1950s. By ensuring that his product would not go stale after 24 hours, he was able to start distributing it across a large swath of Connecticut. After he died in 1960, his sons pooled their resources to build a plant in West Haven. At first about 100 workers produced 120,000 dozen bagels a week, packaging them in plastic bags and shipping them to 30 states.” —New York Times