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Noah Alper – Noah's New York Bagels

Noah Alper is the founder of Noah’s New York Bagels, which he sold for $100 million 6 1/2 years after launching it. He is also the founder of the grocery store, Bread & Circus, once the Northeast’s largest natural foods chain and now part of Whole Foods Market. He is also the author of “Business Mench”, a book about lessons from his business experiences.

Today he consults in areas of entrepreneurship, strategic management, executive coaching and business planning.

***Mensch – “a person who does the right thing, even when no one is looking”***

Noah’s Motivating Factors For Business

  • coming up with a concept and seeing it realized
  • exciting and satisfying customers and watching them come back for more
  • positive business trends (profits, margins growing every year, etc.)

First Business

Bread & Circus

  • Bread & Circus was started in 1973 as a small natural food store, when natural food stores were rare
  • the original idea was to be a natural foods grocery store, as well as a general store
  • after a couple years in business, Noah was exhausted and felt that Bread & Circus was too time consuming
  • in 1975, he sold the company for around $30,000
  • then the person he sold it to, grew the business to the largest natural food store chain in the northeast and then sold it to Whole Foods Market in 1994

First Failure

Holy Land Gifts

  • Holy Land Gifts’ aim was to sell giftware from Israel to born-again Christians in America, by mail-order catalog
  • Noah got the idea after he heard that 1/3 Americans admitted to a born-again Christian conversion
  • primary motive for Holy Land Gifts was to strengthen the Israeli economy
  • the business failed from the beginning, due to his lack of research; everything was off
  • very few orders came in; 1-2 orders a day
  • after 4 years of running the business, Noah finally quit; he ending up losing $50,000

Noah On Failure

  • it is extremely important for an entrepreneur to know when to throw in the towel
  • every successful entrepreneur fails in business once or twice, sometimes multiple times
  • you must learn to distinguish failure as a “failed business,” not a “failed person/entrepreneur”
  • after a failure, come back stronger

Noah’s New York Bagels

  • Noah’s New York Bagels is a restaurant focused on bagels, located on the west-coast
  • Noah launched Noah’s New York Bagels in 1989, 6 months after shutting down his failed business

Factors For Success

  1. Location – they had a wonderful, visible location, in Berkeley, California; right by the University, they had their own parking lot
  2. Product – bagels: there was a large bagel boom in the late ’80’s; back then, a bagel was, what a donut is today
  3. Area – the Bay Area was/is a hotbed for every king of fantastic ethnic food

Mega Success (Factors)

  1. Attitude: they showed their employees and their community that they appreciated them
  2. Service: they performed community service in the neighborhoods their stores were located in, sometimes even before their stores were up; this lead to customer loyalty

$100 Million Sale

  • in just under 7 years after launch, Noah sold the business for $100 million to Einstein Bagels
  • he grew the business to 38 stores and over 1,000 employees
  • Noah owned 15% of the company by then

After Noah’s Bagels

  • Noah spent a year in Jerusalem to catch up on his Jewish heritage
  • he founded Jewish Community High School in San Francisco
  • he launched another restaurant, but shut it down after 4 years because the profitability wasn’t there
  • he then went into business consulting for entrepreneurs on executive planning, marketing advice, and mentoring; he still does this
  • he wrote a book entitled “Business Mensch: Timeless Wisdom for Today’s Entrepreneur”


  • You can have a lot of downturns and personal challenges and still succeed.”
  • Customers don’t come in one particular size or shape. You have to communicate differently, with different people.”
  • Start small, do the job right, and then see where it goes.”
  • Take care of your employees and your community and they’ll take care of you.”
  • Nothing is forever”
  • Have a little chutzpah. Be willing to learn from a lot of people and take other people’s input. Don’t assume you know everything.”

Side Notes

  • Starbucks was a partner in Noah’s New York Bagels
  • Noah describes his father as a mensch
  • the landlord of the first store of Noah’s New York Bagels told Noah that he wasn’t going to rent the store to Noah based off his previous failure, but he did, only because he saw the passion and fire in Noah’s eyes

Connect With Noah

  1. Knew
    March 16, 2010 at 7:20 pm

    Thanks! Nice article. Very inspiring!

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