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Bidding Adieu to Two Breakfast Business Barons

Raise your bagels and sip some coffee for Murray Lender and Sam Glazer.

If you’re like me, your ideal Sunday morning includes a cup of coffee and a crisply toasted bagel with cream cheese. (If you’re really like me, there’s also a Bloody Mary, a number of eggs, and quite a bit of hot sauce involved. But let’s stick to the basics).

What better time, then, to remember two of the pioneers of the breakfast sector, whose strategic chops and hard work helped bring millions of consumers the finest in morning fare. It turns out that these foodstuffs became iconic thanks in no small part new technology and savvy marketing.

We speak, of course, of Murray Lender, who passed away at 81 on Wednesday, and Samuel Glazer, who died earlier this month at age 89. Lender turned his father’s bakery into a bagel empire and Glazer’s company developed and popularized drip coffee, which quickly replaced the highly volatile percolator as the best way to make coffee at home.

Lender, according to his New York Times obituary, was responsible for making what was then an ethnic specialty into a universal staple at Lender’s Bagels. He used new industrial refrigeration technology in the 1950s to enable the distribution of frozen bagels around the country and built a broad marketing effort that popularized the “Jewish English muffin” nationally.

“I never walked into anybody’s office without a toaster under one arm and a package of bagels under the other,” Lender said in the Times.

Glazer, meanwhile, worked with business partner Vincent Marotta to create the “Mr. Coffee” home coffee maker. In the early seventies, they hired two engineers to adapt large, commercial coffee makers into attractive models fit for the home, which resulted in the classic glass-pot coffeemaker we know today. Their product was a quick success, and was copied by other companies with equal speed, but their business thrived thanks in part to a 14-year marketing campaign starring baseball legend Joe DiMaggio.

It may seem strange to celebrate the consumer culture behind these products in this age of local food and micro-economies. Mass-produced frozen bagels might not be winner with locavores (or people from New York), but every local bagel bakery owes some thanks to Lender for the cultural impact of his vision; besides, there's room in the market for convenience and gourmet products. The neighborhood coffee shop wasn’t put out of business by the homemade coffee maker. Many have a healthy sideline selling gourmet beans, although they’d like you to manually pour-over drip brew each cup, thanks.

While the home coffee pot and the bagel are ubiquitous today, it took vision for Lender and Glazer to spot the need for these products in peoples’ lives. It’s worth a modest celebration of the market economy when you see how the confluence of idea, resources, and consumers helped bring a small convenience into the mornings of millions. Raise your bagels and sip some coffee for Murray Lender and Sam Glazer.

Photo via (cc) Flickr user Carl Lender; Mr. Coffee.

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