When Margaret Stock, ’17, showed up to Bagel Basket to order her regular sandwich of breaded chicken, fresh mozzarella, lettuce and honey mustard, owner Sunny Qureshi let her know they were out of mozzarella cheese.
But rather than ask Stock to change her order, he gave her and her friends money to go to the grocery store and pick some up so that he could make her sandwich.
“I just panicked, and he said I’ll give you $20 if you want to go to the grocery store and pick up mozzarella,” Stock said.
Bagel Basket is a popular deli, and self-proclaimed Lehigh student “hangover hangout,” located by Goodman Campus. It is welcoming and friendly, filled with energy as the kitchen bustles and workers run around quickly aiding customers.
“All the workers are super friendly,” Stock said. “(Qureshi) knows all the students, so it makes you want to come in.”
Bagel Basket is open from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day, but the most popular times are the morning rush and the lunchtime hours to around noon to 2 p.m. Qureshi said regulars usually come in early to get their fresh bagels.
“People like to eat outside or inside, drink their coffee and eat bagels before they start a whole day of work or chores,” Qureshi said.
Steve Brodeur, ‘17, has been coming to Bagel Basket for four years. Even though he lives on campus, he said he still likes to drive over the mountain for food.
“It definitely gives another option besides the on-campus stuff,” Brodeur said as he eats his bacon, egg and cheese sandwich between classes. “I like their food and I like their manager so I give him some business.”
Qureshi said he ran three food-related businesses in New York City before working at Bagel Basket. He is an immigrant from India who moved to the United States when he was 18. He worked his first year in America under a boss, but then eventually decided he’d prefer running his own businesses.
“The last 18 years I have been my own boss, and I never had any problems,” he said.
After running his businesses in New York, he moved to the Lehigh area where he bought Bagel Basket in July 2012. Qureshi said he was a customer before buying it, and he simply liked the place and its location.
His first day on the job was July 5, 2012, right after the Fourth of July weekend. Qureshi said when he first started working, he realized Bagel Basket would be a different experience than his previous businesses. He said things were slower than in New York.
Once he started working at Bagel Basket, he had to make some changes. Qureshi said he wanted to improve the food quality so customers could get the best he could provide them.
“Running a business is like raising a little kid,” he said.
He said the first three years in particular were hard because he had to make sure everything was running smoothly and the quality of the deli was where he wanted it to be.
In addition to bagels, Bagel Basket offers a variety of hot and cold sandwiches, Boar’s Head deli meat, assorted cream cheeses and bakery items. On the weekends, Indian cuisine is also an option.
Brodeur said Qureshi is friendly and enjoys interacting with Lehigh students. He once showed Brodeur how to make fresh bagels in the back, which Brodeur said was a cool experience.
“He definitely knows the Lehigh students and likes when we all come there,” Stock said.
Stock said in general all the employees are helpful and care about the satisfaction of their customers. She said Qureshi knows his regulars well and cares about the quality of his food. He said he only uses brand-name products.
“Bagel Basket loves Lehigh,” Qureshi said, “They’re good kids, very respected kids. We have never had an incident with them.”
Qureshi said there are a few times when they have run out of bagels and the students always wait patiently. Qureshi said in particular the athletic department, like golf and baseball, and sororities have always been good to Bagel Basket.
Qureshi said he enjoys his job a lot and though Lehigh students and the community alike enjoy their weekly visits to Bagel Basket, he is thinking about retiring in the next few years.
“I’m just glad I’ll be graduated by the time he retires,” Stock said.