In the spring of 1991, I was finishing up my sophomore year of high school and I needed a summer job. Until then, I’d always gone to summer camp for the summers, and going back as a camp counselor wasn’t that appealing (and wouldn’t earn very much money). Being the nerd that I was, I attached a photocopy of my report card to a cover letter and handed it out to a few shop owners in town — starting with the ones that seemed like cool places to work. The video store expressed interest, but then never called back after promising to set up an interview. The printing place said they didn’t have any openings. The book store said they only hired college graduates.
Then I wandered into Super Bagel. There was a sign in the window saying “Help Wanted” and I asked the guy inside. He asked me to wait a minute, went into the back, and then came out and told me the boss wanted to talk to me. He told me to go back out the front door, walk around the corner, and past the record shop I’d see a little alleyway. Walk through that alley, go through the gate and knock at the door. The door opened, and I met Bob Anderson for the first time. He looked and spoke like Robert DeNiro.
“Authorities say the estranged husband of a woman found shot to death in a Huntington, Long Island bagel shop was arrested and charged with second-degree murder Friday. Suffolk County police spokeswoman Audrey Marrone said 66-year-old Robert Anderson was arrested at his sister’s home, hours after Ann Anderson’s body was found early Friday inside Super Bagel in Huntington.”
— Husband charged in bagel shop shooting
After a quick interview, I was hired. Bob asked me if I was an early riser or a late riser, and eager to please the new boss, I said early. He told me great, that I needed to come in at 4:50 am. If I was a late riser, it would have been 5:50 am. If you came in later than 10 to the hour, he said you wouldn’t get paid for that first hour of the morning. His one other admonition: “Wear socks next time.” Since I’d just been dropping off resumes, I was wearing boat shoes with no socks. Wearing socks was important to Bob.
“Before dawn on Friday, police said, Robert Anderson waited in the alley across from the Huntington village bagel shop he co-owned with his estranged wife.
After she arrived, he entered the popular Wall Street shop and confronted his wife of almost 20 years, Ann Anderson, to talk about the distribution of goods from a messy divorce.”
— Gunned down at dawn
Five days a week (both weekend days required, two random days off during the week) all summer long I walked through that alley as a short cut to Super Bagel. My parents’ house was about a mile away, and it was an easy walk in the cool mornings. The bars in Huntington close at 4am, and in order to get there at 4:50am, I’d take a few shortcuts through some alleys, and walk around the drunks who had recently been tossed out of the bars. It wasn’t an easy job, and Bob was nothing if not a demanding boss. But, after a little while, I really started enjoying working there.
I met Ann for the first time a few weeks into my job there. I don’t know where she was when I first started, but one Saturday morning I came in for the “late” shift (5:50 am) and there she was running the place. I remember thinking that she was strikingly attractive. Just as Bob reminded me of DeNiro, Ann reminded me of a movie star, though I couldn’t place who — perhaps Phoebe Cates. She clearly was in charge. Bob was in the back cooking bagels, as per usual, but Ann ran the store and was making sure that it ran smoothly. As a bunch of us were cutting bagels behind the cream cheese counter, the other workers were complaining about what a “bitch” she was. I had no idea who she was and given all the complaints (and still being new) she frightened me and I did my best not to screw up. It was only later that someone mentioned she was Bob’s wife.
There were a few other high school kids who worked at Super Bagel, but most didn’t last long. The early start on weekends didn’t go over well. However, most of the other people who worked there were older. They tended to drift in and out of jobs, and other than a few long-timers, most counter jockeys didn’t stay working there very long. The pay was $6/hour when I started. That was nearly $2 over minimum wage, which beat all my other options — but it was hardly a living if it was your full-time job. However, I worked hard, and Bob and Ann seemed to recognize that. I enjoyed working for them and getting to know them. Bob used to joke that I was the only employee that Ann didn’t hate. I kept working there after the summer and was given more responsibility. I got to open and close the store sometimes and they even let me manage the two other bagel stores they owned on weekends. Those were cushy assignments, since neither one got crowded (compared to Super Bagel, which often had a line out the door).
One time, probably a year or so after I’d been working at Super Bagel, Ann and I were both working at the Northport store and she asked me if I knew anything about computers. I still didn’t have a computer, but I played around with them at school and knew my way around a keyboard. She said she had just bought a computer, and asked if I could help her figure it out. The next week I spent the morning not slinging bagels, but getting her 286 (yes, 286) up and running (and telling her she should have splurged for the 386). I showed her how to use Lotus 1-2-3 to help her keep the books. She was really interested in managing the business thoroughly.
“Friends said she nearly went bankrupt in 1999 and worked seven days a week at one point to get out of debt. ‘She worked like a horse,’ the Canadian woman said. ‘That’s why he married her.'”
— Long Island hubby pumped five shots into wife’s head: cops
All of the news stories say that it was Ann’s shop, and that Bob “co-owned” it with her, but when I was there, it was Bob’s shop, even if Ann ran it. Bob was a fascinating character. He was clearly proud of the success he’d built up at Super Bagel and he worked there 7 days a week, 365 days a year while I was there. He never missed a day. My second summer there, Ann and Bob planned a two week cruise away. They prepared carefully for it, and trained everyone else to keep the shop running while they were gone. On the day of the trip, however, Bob changed his mind and came into work. Ann still went on the cruise with a friend (who also worked at the shop).
About a year after I started, Bob and Ann had hired a guy named Bruce to work at the store. Bruce was way too smart to be working behind the counter of a bagel store. He claimed that he had been laid off from his stock broker Wall Street job and needed to do something to pay the bills. Bob and Ann took him under their wing a bit and taught him all aspects of the business, with the intention of having him help manage the store. However, after about 3 months, he quit. A month later, we learned that a new bagel store was opening up… just across the street. It was opened by Bruce and his brother, with money from their father. Prior to this, there were no other bagel stores within a few miles, and to open one up across the street after being an internal spy at Super Bagel seemed unforgivable. The morning Bruce’s store opened, my job was to go in and get a dozen bagels so we could do a taste test back at Super Bagel. I was scared to death that Bruce would recognize me, but he wasn’t up front in their shop. I took the bagels back, and Bob and Ann spent time critiquing the quality of Bruce’s bagels. Perhaps he hadn’t learned nearly enough while working for us.
“A man accused of shooting his wife dead in their bagel shop was ordered to give up guns six months earlier, a prosecutor said.
The victim, Ann Anderson, obtained a court order of protection in November against her estranged husband, 66-year-old Robert Anderson. The order revoked the husband’s gun license, and he turned in two guns to authorities, prosecutors said in court Saturday.”
— LI Man Told to Turn in Guns Before Wife’s Shooting
I don’t remember Bob having much of a temper. He wanted me to wear socks. He wanted us to treat the customers right… as long as it didn’t involve taking the coffee cake out of order. We had a big coffee cake, and customers always wanted middle, not end, pieces. However, Bob’s rule was that the coffee cake had to be given out in order, and he would get upset at any employee who agreed to give out middle pieces out of order. I once had a customer walk out with nearly $100 worth of food on the counter after he argued with me and I told him the customer was always right… except when it came to getting pieces from the middle of the coffee cake. Ron, Bob’s son, once almost got into a fist fight with a customer over the coffee cake when a customer cursed him out for not giving him a middle piece.
Bob was much older than Ann (apparently 27 years). The whispered rumors among other employees was that he had been married before (in fact, his son Ron, from that marriage, still worked in the bagel place as well), but had hired Ann to work in the bagel place, and then ended up divorcing his wife to marry Ann. I never found out how true that was.
I once asked Bob how he ended up owning the bagel shop, and he told me, “Well, I used to be in auto body. You know what auto body is, right?” I nodded. He nodded back. “You know, you steal cars, you break ’em up and sell off the pieces,” to which I replied: “Oh, that kind of auto body.”
He said his lawyer recommended he get out of that business, and came to him one day with the proposal to buy this bagel shop. “What the fuck are bagels? The things with the holes in the middle?” was his response. And yet, he still bought the place.
“Robert Anderson is expected to be arraigned on second-degree murder charges Saturday at First District Court in Central Islip. He has no previous criminal record.”
— Husband charged in bagel shop shooting
I have no idea how truthful Bob was being in telling me about his history. I assumed he was joking about the auto body shop, but I wouldn’t have been surprised to find out that it was true. He was a tough guy, and I could see him being in auto body (his kind of auto body). The only time I ever saw Bob look scared was when we got a visit from a tax inspector, concerned that we weren’t charging the proper sales tax. He pretended to not be at the shop, hiding in the very back, even as Daisy, the woman from Ecuador who would shuttle new tubs of cream cheese from the front to the back “accidentally” insisted that Bob was in the back, as one of the employees insisted he had left for the day.
However, Bob did have a run in with legal problems while I worked there. He and Ann lived in Lloyd Harbor, the wealthiest area around — and they were anything but the typical Lloyd Harbor couple (Debbie Gibson, who was still popular at the time, lived in Lloyd Harbor; as did Billy Joel). Bob built a barn in his back yard and brought in farm animals: pigs and goats to be specific. In Lloyd Harbor they had no problem with rich neighbors with horses… but pigs and goats were another story. His neighbors complained to the town council, who demanded Bob get rid of the goats and pigs for violating town regulations. Bob went to court to fight it, and eventually lost. He was told to give up the livestock, or face six months in jail. He held out until the last day and then gave up the pigs and goats.
He was thrilled with upsetting his neighbors though (and used to joke about how they still came to shop at Super Bagel, first watching from across the street to make sure none of their neighbors would spot them going into the store). A few years later, when I was back visiting, I asked him about the animals, and he said he was in the process of getting a llama. Someone he knew was apparently selling one, and he thought it would be great to have one for the kids. He called up someone from town hall, pretending to be an out-of-towner thinking of moving to Lloyd Harbor, and asked about what kind of animals were allowed.
“No pigs! No goats!” the woman told him immediately. “Horses, are fine, however.”
“What about llamas?” he asked.
“Llamas? The things with the two humps?”
“Actually, just one hump, but from the sound of things, the folks in that town could use a couple humps.”
The woman apparently said “they sure could…” before catching herself and saying “well, no, there’s no law against llamas, but your neighbors might not like it.” (Wikipedia tells me Bob was wrong: llamas have no humps… but the story was a good one).
“After she arrived, he entered the popular Wall Street shop and confronted his wife of almost 20 years, Ann Anderson, to talk about the distribution of goods from a messy divorce.
But she was dismissive, police said, and he became enraged.
Aiming a .22-caliber pistol, he shot her once in the side. Then, standing over her, he fired several bullets into her head and neck, killing her, Suffolk police said.” —Gunned down at dawn
I don’t recall ever seeing the two of them argue. They were both strong personalities so I have no doubt that they clashed. Half the time I knew them she was pregnant. They had four kids in the course of five years (according to one of the articles), which matches up with the period of time I knew them. During college, I would stop by and visit whenever I was in town on break. They always made sure I left with a bag full of bagels (which surprised me since employees were never allowed to take bagels home, even if they were going to be thrown out). I went back to work there winter break of my freshman year, trying to earn some extra cash. They were kind enough to let me make my own schedule for a few weeks, and I helped them again with their computer system.
After I moved to California I obviously lost touch with them. They had talked about selling the bagel place, or maybe even moving elsewhere and opening up a new bagel place in a totally different area. However, just last month, as I mentioned in a blog post, as I was back in town, I stopped by the bagel shop early in the morning (around 6am) to pick up bagels before driving down to Baltimore. I knew they’d be open. Ann and Ron were working there, though they didn’t recognize me (it had been at least 12 years since I’d seen or spoken to them) and they were busy getting set up for the morning rush. Ann looked older and she looked distracted, but I figured it was just getting ready for the rush.
“He knew that she would be opening the store at 5 a.m.,” Fitzpatrick said. “He waited in an alleyway across from the building. He realized she would normally leave the door unlocked behind her.”
— Long Island hubby pumped five shots into wife’s head: cops
I love telling stories from working at the bagel place. Back when I knew Tim Tayag in San Francisco (before he moved away), he used to tell me I should create a whole comedy routine around stories from the bagel place (there are lots more beyond the few I list here). Sunnia likes to make fun of me whenever I tell a bagel store story, claiming that they are “date stories” that I used to save up to entertain women on dates. I never thought I’d add any more stories to the bunch — and certainly not like this. They were always comedy stories, with the movie-star characters of Bob and Ann played for comic relief. I never thought it would end as a tragedy and a mugshot.