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Bagels, Business and Family

by on June 27, 2014 6:00 AM

When Brandon Rusinque showed up to work on opening day at his father’s new bagel shop, the line was out the door and around the corner.

They hadn’t even yet formally announced their grand opening.

Al Rusinque opened Bagel Crust at 332 E Calder Way at the end of May.

Rusinque, a restaurateur familiar with the entrepreneurial spirit, has previously owned bagel shops in Delaware, Florida and Maryland over the past 22 years. These efforts were largely successful; a few remain open to this day, though Rusinque is no longer affiliated with them. 

The move to State College was as much about business as it was family. Brandon, an aspiring orthodontist, came to Penn State last year to study pre-med. Having previously operated a shop in a college town, Rusinque opened Bagel Crust to be near his son.

Brandon says he enjoys the fast-paced work of his father’s shop, but he’s never felt pressured into someday taking over the business.

“My father definitely pushes me to work on my degree,” Brandon says. “He encourages [my younger brother and me] to pursue academics more than anything.”

Though running the shop is second nature to Rusnique, the process of acquiring the location and making it business-ready proved challenging. Having leased “basically an empty shell,” Rusinque still needed to set up the water and sewage, ensure the building was handicap accessible and prepare the interior for customers. 

“With the leasing process, it really takes about two months before you actually do anything,” Rusinque says. “You have the hire architects and contractors. I did some of the work myself, but you can only do so much.” 

The shop itself is cozy, with large windows, outdoor seating and muted colors. On one wall hangs a series of plaques with the names of specialty sandwiches: the Soprano, the Mick Jagger, the Boss. On another wall hands a bright painting, by Rusinque himself, of  bagel sandwiches. 

When not working, Rusinque enjoys painting, and is currently “painting a picture for the town” of the Corner Room, one of the most classic buildings in State College’s streetscape. When finished, he plans to hang it in Bagel Crust. 

Penn State student Kyle Freeley and his friend Nick Toscano, both Boston natives, say they were impressed by both Bagel Crust’s prices and menu.

“They have a lot more variety than I would’ve expected from a bagel place,” Toscano says.

The menu includes variously flavored handmade bagels, egg sandwiches and omelets, cheese steaks, tuna melts and more.

Rusinque says that, even without advertising, business has been strong and steady. The summer may be somewhat relaxed, but the fall will bring an influx of students and hungry stomachs.

Though Rusinque says it’s hard to compare Bagel Crust to his previous enterprises because it only recently opened, “this period of time has been the best of all my shops.” 

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Michael Martin Garrett is a general assignment reporter for StateCollege.com, a graduate of Penn State and a published poet. He's also a musician who plays bass in an indie rock band.
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