Yorgo’s Bageldashery is located in Norfolk Virginia’s historic Ghent district. Its presence is well known to locals and visitors alike. Its not only the place to find the best bagels in town but also lots of great people who are a part of a growing tradition that began over nineteen years ago when its owner was just a customer who loved bagels…like you. So what better person to tell the Yorgo’s story than its owner Greg Peterman? Here’s Greg on the subject of Yorgo’s past and present.
Ok Greg, what’s your story?
Well, laughs; my first Job was, believe it or not; working at Chesapeake Bagel Bakery in Northern Virginia. I was fifteen. I worked there from 1988 to 1989 then again after a short hiatus to California from 91 to 96. My Job consisted mostly of running daily operations and teaching future franchisees mixing and baking techniques. We were the top grossing bagel business in the franchise and super busy at the time.
Greg pauses and turns to a customer coming through the door.
BOAT MAN, how’s it going?
The two exchange some boating jargon pertaining to the customer’s sailboat and Greg wishes him good day. He tells me a bit about the customer and is ready to continue. So what brought you back from DC to Norfolk?
I wanted to get out of the bagel business, laughs; and pursue school!
I persued a political science degree with a minor in international studies.
What brought you back to bagels?
I was working at No Frill Grill as the general manager and used to come in frequently to Yorgo’s. I had learned so much from my boss Jerry Meltsner and felt like I had reached a crossroads as a manager. I figured hey, I could open up my own restaurant and spend more time sailing, finish by three; sailing by four! Laughs My old boss Jerry is a regular customer and can’t resist busting on me when he comes in “Hey Greg, not sailing today?
Was Yorgo’s the first bagel shop in Ghent?
Back in the day there was another bagel place just two blocks away called “Bagel Works”. I ate there…once, laughs. I ate at Yorgo’s all the time; my wife Kim and I used to sit here and think…this could be THE PLACE. We had an idea of creating a kind of living room away from home; a place where customers would really feel comfortable with great food and great service. We used to sit here and sweat, laughs, back when there was no AC! The walls were battleship gray with green trim.
Sounds more like a dungeon than a restaurant?
Yeah, it was pretty rough but it was a cool hang out! There are no before pictures because it didn’t look so hot when we took it over, laughs.
When did you take over?
January 1st, 2006; I met the owner at No Frill, he made an offer, and we countered. First day of business was Jan 2nd, hesmiles.
Who actually starts a business at the beginning of the fiscal year, I asked? He laughs and begins explaining the business advantages of starting in January and then goes right into the improvements that he began making on opening day; as if happily reliving the whole experience. How much of the original Yorgo’s idea did you change?
The customers were used to the look of things so we made small changes at first to make sure everyone felt comfortable with it. Our first goal was to keep the product consistent and get orders correct, laughs; this wasn’t going so good at the time… We adjusted the recipes so that we could mix smaller batches to insure freshness. We upgraded our computers and added two more registers. We added more fixtures and changed all the light bulbs to brighten the restaurant up. Oh, we added an office,laughs; the old one was a desk behind two freestanding doors!
Greg pauses and turns to the counter
Sam, making super bagels tomorrow; we’ll need that from the mix
He then rattles off a few details to her and returns to our conversation in mid sentence The catering business was virtually non-existent so I hired Rodney Paice for the job. We began baking bagel chips and delivering them door to door! Catering improved instantly expanding to several regular customers including Elliot’s Fair Grounds and Borjo’s over by ODU. We added 13 tons of AC and we’re now looking at awnings to go over the front windows for this summer.
How did customers react to the new ownership?
Everything was positive; I think due to the slow changes. One time I had a customer come in and say “what happened to my old hole in the wall?” he laughs. Recently we had a customer come in and say “Look at you, Mr. Takes over the old bagel shop and turns it into the place where everyone wants to be”
Greg smiles and thanks me for stopping in.