A South Orange, NJ no-frills bagel mainstay for almost 50 years is about to get a makeover by one of its most devoted customers.
Jason Miller, who has been a resident of South Orange for 17 years, purchased Sonny’s Bagels at 123 South Orange Avenue this past summer. While he plans to revamp the place, don’t expect Sonny’s to lose its old-school charm.
“I’ve been a customer since I moved here,” said Miller, who is quick to tout the enduring history of Sonny’s which can be traced back to Watson’s Bagels in Newark during the 1940s.
Sonny’s opened in 1971 and was named after the bagel-maker Sonny Amster, who worked his way up to partnership at Watson’s. Sonny’s family later brought the hand-rolled tradition to South Orange.
Miller plans to spend the summer refurbishing the store and will announce a grand re-opening at the end of the summer. He’s excited that Sonny’s will be making bagels with seeds on both sides. “And we’ll start selling lox in the store,” he added.
The new owner said that he reached out for feedback from long-time fans. “The oven has been here since 1971, and people come in from all over,” said Miller. “There’s rich heritage and tradition here. We’re not going to make it too modern.”
The place is decidedly old-school. Only classic bagel flavors make their way through Sonny’s oven, which are then packed up into brown paper bags. And you won’t find blueberry bagels or strawberry cream cheese at Sonny’s any time soon. Miller readily admits he doesn’t come from a bagel maker’s background. “When I told my wife about this, she said, ‘You’re buying what?’”
But that won’t stop him from bringing business ownership acumen to Sonny’s. Miller comes from a finance background, and currently runs FlockTamer, a real-time news site which aggregates stories from thousands of sources. “Social media is an outstanding source of news, commentary and disinformation, but it is also like trying to take a sip of water from a firehose,” Miller said.
The new owner also spoke about his focus on the community and the importance of giving back. “We’ll be involved with a number of local food pantries,” said Miller. “Bagels are easy for people to take home.”
According to Miller, the previous owner was simply overwhelmed with the responsibility of keeping up the shop and looks forward to taking on the challenge. “I like bagels, I love this product and I see this as an opportunity to be part of an institution,” he said.
Sonny’s is open seven days a week, between 6:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Sonny’s Bagels, 123 S Orange Ave, South Orange, NJ 07079. (973) 763-9634.