WILSHIRE BLVD ‚Äî As the owner of a small bagel shop and deli on Wilshire Boulevard, Brian Gruntz makes it his mission to get to know his loyal customers, the lifeblood of his business. And it‚Äôs not just their favorite cream cheese spread either.
Gruntz considers those who frequent New York Bagel and Deli members of his extended family. So when he heard that one was a passionate volunteer with Guide Dogs of America, which provides professionally-trained guide dogs for the blind and visually impaired, Gruntz knew he wanted to do something to help out.
For the first three days in February he plans to donate 10 percent of his gross sales to the nonprofit in the name of his customer, Santa Monican Glyn Judson, and his 11-month-old golden retriever Fred.
“As a mom-and-pop you really grow close to your customers,” said Gruntz, who took over the bagel shop in 1998. “When I got married all the customers had a catered event for us. When one got sick with cancer, others took care of them because they had no family in town. It‚Äôs really just a great community, and we want to give something back.”
Judson, 69, a retired photographer for Hughes Aircraft Co., where he first heard about Guide Dogs of America, is touched by the offer to donate.
“It was so sweet of Brian and his wife to do this. They‚Äôre very good folks,” said the jovial Judson, who has been raising guide dogs for the last decade. “I‚Äôm very touched by his generous offer.”
Judson said he and his group of friends, whom he affectionately calls “a bunch of gray-haired old farts,” meet practically every morning at the bagel shop for breakfast and to talk about current events, lament losses and share stories. Of course Fred is never far behind. As a guide-dog caregiver, it is Judson‚Äôs job to introduce the pooches to the world around them. That means taking them to restaurants, doctor appointments or grocery stores.
“If I get a root canal, he goes with me,” Judson said. He has helped train nine dogs. He said it can be difficult to see them go, but he knows they‚Äôll be serving a purpose. It‚Äôs not long before he welcomes another pup into his home.
“You prepare them as best you can, and then it starts all over again with pee on the kitchen floor,” he said with a laugh.
Donating money to Guide Dogs of America is important, officials with the nonprofit said, because it receives no funding from the federal, state or local governments. It‚Äôs all about individuals and businesses. That‚Äôs how Judson found out about the organization. As an employee of Hughes, every year he and others would opt into the company‚Äôs Give Once (GO) Club, a philanthropic arm.
“I thought, I like dogs, I‚Äôll donate to them.”
And he‚Äôs been giving ever since.
Judson encourages people to stop by New York Bagel in the first week of February, grab some breakfast and say hello to Fred and the rest of Judson‚Äôs pals.
If you go
New York Bagel & Deli
2216 Wilshire Blvd.
Santa Monica, Calif.