Between Rounds bakes bagel empire in north-central Conn.

Engineer turned headhunter turned bagel mogul, Jerry Puiia, and his brother Joe have created a successful family business bringing bagels to north-central Connecticut.

When Jerry saw the tremendous success Joe and their dad were having in Hoboken, New Jersey, with their bagel shop, he decided that with a steady career and no children, it was a good time to take a risk.

“At the time, everyone was getting into the bagel bandwagon,” he says.

Jerry moved to Connecticut from Staten Island with his wife in 1982 to work for Pratt & Whitney as an engineer.

He and his wife opened their Vernon store, then known as The Bagel Shop, in 1990.  They changed the name to Between Rounds in 1993.

“We were competing with a whole bunch of players,” he says — many of whom, he notes, are no longer in business.

Between Rounds, however, has thrived and now has four locations: on Route 5 in South Windsor, the Vernon Circle Shopping Center in Vernon, the Plaza at Buckland Hills in Manchester, and adjacent to Citgo Express Gas at 206 Merrow Road in Tolland.

So, what is it about Between Rounds that makes it different?

Jerry brings a mix of passion and humility that helps create success in a fast-paced market.

Ask him how long he’s been in business, and his eyes light up as he proudly tells you that Between Rounds has been operating for 28 years.  He will almost immediately follow this up with the question, “Can you believe that?”

For consumers, it isn’t hard to believe at all.  Between Rounds boasts an appealing assortment of pastries, cookies, bagels, and sandwiches, and is frequently introducing new flavors — the latest is jalapeno cheddar. Some locations even sell mugs and other merchandise.

“I think what made us so successful was we never identified as just a bagel shop,” Jerry says.

Jerry also believes his experience in engineering and head hunting has played into their success with Between Rounds.

“I’m a believer that it took everything you went through to get where you’re at,” Jerry says.

“When you’re an engineer, you have a methodical way of thinking,” he says.  “When you go into a business, you need to be able to step back and lay out a plan and execute that plan.”

The other element of that success comes from Joe, the man behind the bagels.

After working at the Hoboken store with their father, Joe joined Jerry in Connecticut in 1991 when they were opening their second location in South Windsor.  Today, Joe runs the South Windsor location, which is where the bagels are made.

“I can’t emphasize enough that he is (crazy) about it,” Jerry says.  Joe is fanatical about consistency and quality, and if a batch isn’t just right, it will not be on the shelves.

Besides stockings its restaurants, Between Rounds also supplies bagels to many independent grocers throughout the region. The bagels are delivered to grocers fully baked so no additional labor is required.

The company sells 14 different types of bagels, and the bestsellers are the cheddar and everything bagels. It also offers flavored cream cheese, with traditional flavors — like plan, low-fat vegetable, strawberry, and scallion — that are always available, and special seasonal flavors that change each month.

The Manchester store, which is the only original tenant of the Plaza at Buckland Hills, is temporarily closed for remodeling.

The renovation, which will be similar to work done at the Vernon store, will include energy-efficient lights, new furnishings with seats for large groups, and display space for the expanded line of giftware.

The floor plan is also getting a makeover to create a more efficient layout to speed up customer flow.

Originally published by the Journal Inquirer.  

Feature photo taken by Jackie Nappo.