Greg Novik, the affable founder of the popular Greg’s Bagels eatery in Belvedere Square, died last night, Oct. 11, after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. At his side in his Cheswolde home was his wife of 49 years, Kathy.
Novik was 71.
A former advertising executive, Novik opened Greg’s Bagels in 1989. Besides having the gift of gab, he was known for his love of music and played piano, bass and saxophone in local bands.
Late last year, because of failing health, Novik sold his shop to Tommy Hearn, who reopened it.
In addition to his wife, Novik is survived by his son, Jeffrey; a daughter, Jenna; and several grandchildren. There will be no funeral for Novik, but plans for a memorial gathering celebrating his life are in the works.
The following is a tribute to Novik penned last November by his friend and Jmore columnist Michael Olesker.
A Bagel Man’s Legacy
This one’s for Greg Novik, who now measures out his life span in months. But he should measure it as seven decades of splendid accomplishment as well: as family man, as musician, as writer, as advertising creative director, and for the past 27 years as The Man Who Brought the Bagel to Belvedere Square.
He’s run Greg’s Bagels there as a place to eat and a place to kibitz, a bustling salon for neighborhood folks, students, political types, small-town celebs, and all who have enjoyed a variety of bagels made from scratch.
The bagels, and the atmosphere created by Greg and his wife, Kathy, have been a joy.
But now, the front door of the place carries the unsettling news that Greg has pancreatic cancer. Since the message was posted several weeks back, Greg says, he’s received “hundreds of letters from customers and former staff from years and years back saying how much we influenced their lives.
“Hey, if I’d known we were so well loved and popular, I’d have raised prices years ago.”
That’s Greg’s sardonic sense of humor. He can still spend hours watching old “Sgt. Bilko” re-runs or reading Will Elder’s old Mad comics. Even while raising two kids, Jenna and Jeff, Greg’s a guy who never let go of his own inner child.
His kids and mine grew up as close friends. Greg schlepped all of them to every comic book and science fiction convention he could find. At Halloween every year, he took them all trick-or-treating. They’d stay out for hours. If we ever had a candy famine in this country, they could have cornered the market on Snickers and Milky Ways.
As 1968 graduates of the Johns Hopkins University, he and Kathy stumbled into the bagel business years ago by fiddling around in their kitchen.
“We had no plan,” he says. “We just wanted to make bagels. Because of Kathy’s personality, and mine, it evolved into the kind of business that doesn’t exist in this country any more, where the product is made from scratch, by hand, where the atmosphere is one of welcoming someone into your home, and where humor and shtick merge with sincerity to bring back an idealized 1950s hangout.”
We count on people like this. They don’t just sell a product, they create a sense of community, they get us out of the house to make glad emotional connections, they create laughter to fill all silence.
And that’s a great legacy for any human being.
Top photo: Greg Novik of Greg’s Bagels who passed away on Oct. 11, 2017, at 71. (Photo from Greg’s Bagels Facebook page)
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