Joann “Jo” Ciallella, owner of the Bagel Hut, has found the fountain of youth in North Philadelphia, all because of the company she keeps at work.
“I’m content with where I am, it’s perfect for me,” Ciallella said. “We just have a good system going here and all of these young students are keeping me young, too.”
Bagel Hut, the breakfast and lunch spot located at Montgomery Avenue and Liacouras Walk, has been in business on Main Campus for more than 18 years. Ciallella has owned the Hut for the past six years.
Due to the Bagel Hut’s small size, Ciallella depends on a staff of student workers. Her employees to know their role as soon as they get into work and serve the long lines of customers in an efficient manner.
Jessica Dorrin, a sophomore kinesiology major, has worked at Bagel Hut since last year and said she enjoys the environment, even when lines stretch down the sidewalk.
“I love working there, it’s such an easygoing environment, even when we’re super busy,” Dorrin said. “[Ciallella] makes working there that much better — she’s always so calm and in a good mood.”
Ciallella said the feeling is mutual for her. She said she believes the owner-worker dynamic is vital to the success of her business.
“All the girls who work here just know what to do when they come in, and they just know their jobs well,” Ciallella said. “We move fast, and we keep everyone happy.”
Students who previously worked at Bagel Hut had positive memories of their time working with Ciallella.
Laura Clark, an alumna and Dorrin’s cousin, said although she and a few of the girls who worked at Bagel Hut have graduated, they still keep in contact with each other and Ciallella.
“I loved [the job] because it was like working with family, literally and figuratively,” Clark said.
Family has always been of the utmost importance to Ciallella, she said. When she had her first child, she decided to work part-time in a restaurant rather than return to her previous full-time job. Working for more than 20 years in the food industry led Ciallella to make the decision to be her own boss, hence her ownership of the Bagel Hut.
“I like Temple a lot, the students are all great and always happy to eat,” Ciallella said. “I’m from an Italian family, so I’m always asking people if they want something to eat, and Temple kids are content when they have their food.”
Open every weekday starting at 6:30 a.m., Bagel Hut is often crowded during breakfast hours, particularly for students on the way to an 8 a.m. class. Although many other campus locations offer bagels, coffee and the like, Ciallella said she believes students flock to her stand because of its specialization and focus on bagels.
“I don’t know what a lot of the other places do, but our bagels are delivered every morning, and we have individual pots for coffee instead of the big urns,” Ciallella said. “I get here every morning around 5:15 a.m. to open and wait for the delivery. Freshness is our main thing.”
The original owners of the Hut served the same fare, and Ciallella said she decided to continue their menu for consistency. Owning the shop isn’t always an easy task, she said. With the small space that makes moving around difficult, impending cold weather that presents challenges.
“When it’s colder, I try to keep the sliding front window closed if there’s no one in line, and I close the side window,” Ciallella said. “But it actually stays pretty warm in here with the toasters going and everyone moving around.”
There are more serious issues in operating the business, particularly during early morning hours when few people are present. In 2011, Ciallella was robbed of $250 shortly before opening time by a man who told her he needed money to support himself and his family. She said she now takes extra precautions, but hasn’t let the situation scare her from doing business.
“Since then, the police are here every morning and their presence is always around,” Ciallella said. “I also don’t carry a lot of money with me anymore.”
Due to heavy foot traffic near Alter and Ritter halls, Ciallella said she ends up talking to many students and can recognize familiar faces and orders.
Ciallella said the most popular lunchtime choice is usually chicken salad, though she’s been surprised that the sliced lox has been one of the most in-demand orders this year.
“There are a few things that we serve that I don’t eat specifically because it’s not my style, but people seem to enjoy it,” Ciallella said. “If it makes you happy to eat it, then it makes me happy to serve you.”
Ciallella said she recommends the bacon cheese melt for a newcomer, which can be served on any type of bagel. Kate Newman, a sophomore kinesiology major, said she stops by when she has free time in the mornings to enjoy her favorite selection.
“I really like how fast the service is, and their bacon cheese melts are great,” Newman said. “There’s also a variety of bagels and spreads, and their prices are good, too.”
Ariane Pepsin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.