This story originally ran in the Cornell Daily Sun.
Though Collegetown Bagels will depart from its just-off-campus corner — where students have bought late-night eats for decades — once the building is demolished in June, its owners have already begun work on the chain’s next location: directly across the street.
The new store will occupy most of the first floor of Cornell-owned Sheldon Court, safely out of the path of the wrecking ball. Owners Gregar Brous and and Lindsey Brous ’12 hope to keep the building’s original spirit while expanding the square footage in the new space.
“We’ve been planning this for almost six months,” said Gregar, who opened Collegetown Bagels’ first location next door to its current space in 1972.
He and his daughter, Lindsey, said they had heard for years that building owner Student Agencies was eyeing the prime-location property for redevelopment. The student-owned company announced plans to tear down the aging structure and rebuild a luxury apartment building in its place last fall.
The Sheldon Court space was the first choice for a relocation, the owners said — potential talks began with Cornell over five years ago, and a spokesperson for the University noted that it was “happy” to provide the store’s new home. The lease was finally signed on Christmas Eve, the owners said.
“There was a part of Cornell that really felt like they wanted us in there and it was a really good match,” Gregar said, seated at the counter of CTB.
Sheldon Court, a 119-year-old building home to 164 upper-level students on its five floors, houses a retail space on the first level separate from the current residential space. Work to gut the 4,900-square-foot space, previously home to Kaplan Test Prep, kicked off on Jan. 3.
The standardized exam preparatory service transformed the space into a conventional office, covering up much of the old brickwork. CTB’s design and construction team are working to reclaim some of the original features, Gregar said, such as the six stone fireplaces that were used to heat the building in the early 20th century — paying heed to the building’s history.
Sheldon Court was constructed as a private boys’ dormitory in 1901 by Ithaca businessman Charles Lacey Sheldon, Jr., and previously housed the Triangle Bookshop on the first floor. The building was renovated in 1982, which included the removal of many of the stone fireplaces that weren’t hidden in the walls of the downstairs space.
Gregor said that after the move, the bagel shop plans to name a sandwich “The Sheldon” after the architect.
Other plans — though the design process is ongoing — will also transform the outdoor patio into a gathering space, with tables and chairs to wrap around the building.
These renovations follow the continuity of CTB’s current, popular outdoor space, which owners and even local government officials expressed concern over losing when the building lost out on landmark status last year.
This redesign comes within a year of the downtown branch’s move into the City Centre building, which came with a swanky decor upgrade from its North Aurora Street digs.
“We kind of felt like that was practice for this,” Gregar said. “We knew these two things were kind of happening following each other.” He and his family are managing this redesign themselves as well, and said they plan to incorporate some elements of their history and some “new twists” as well.
CTB will continue to serve beer and wine, and also plans to include a private room in the back of the building, which will be available for third parties to rent out.
Though the business will be housed in a private student dorm, the sections of the building that allow access to the residences are separate and will be protected by key-card readers, Gregar said.
An opening day has not yet been scheduled, Gregar said, as he is continuing to appeal to current landlord Student Agencies, Inc. to delay the demolition day to after the first week in June, allowing alumni to return for a grand farewell.
“We love this space,” Brous said. “That would be a fun way to go out.”
With this in mind, he hopes for a closing and opening as close together as possible. However, the Brous family has not yet decided the future of Rulloff’s Restaurant, also owned by Gregar and located in the demolition-doomed building. The block contains the Bear Necessities shop as well.
In addition to the Collegetown and downtown locations, the Brous family owns a CTB branch in East Hill, also in a Cornell-owned building.