PORTLAND — When Eric “Rick” Hartglass opened the first Mister Bagel shop on Forest Avenue in 1977, he brought bagels to Maine.

“He saw a need for the bagel business,” said his son-in-law Joel Baker, who now owns the business.

Mr. Hartglass learned how to make bagels from the renowned Ess-a-Bagel, Inc. in New York, his birthplace. He took what he learned back to the bakery in Maine, attracting people from throughout the area with his bagels.

“You couldn’t believe the amount of dozens (of bagels) moving through that facility,” his son-in-law said.

Mr. Hartglass also created Mister Bagel’s trademark sign – a caricature of himself that now graces the signs for 12 franchises throughout Maine.

Mr. Hartglass, a man who often told people he was a legend in his own mind, died Monday. He was 64.

He met his wife of 42 years, Gail Hartglass, on the porch of the Howard Johnson’s in Naples during the summer of 1966. “It was a summer romance that never ended,” she said.

The couple settled in Portland and opened Mister Bagel on Forest Avenue, where Mr. Hartglass cooked and his wife worked “as the counter girl,” she said.

“There wasn’t a day that went by that we didn’t love everything (about that business). The food, the people, the employees,” she said. “It was just wonderful.”

As the market for bagels increased and Mr. Hartglass decided to expand his business, he partnered with Frank Read, an ophthalmologist at the Maine Eye Center. The two met while playing tennis 25 years ago and became “perfect business partners,” Gail Hartglass said.

“His nickname was Dr. Cream Cheese. It was Dr. Cream Cheese and Rick was Mister Bagel,” she said.

“They were really a part of the national phenomenon of bagel eating,” said Baker, the son-in-law.

Today, all 12 Mister Bagel shops are independently owned, which is the way Mr. Hartglass wanted to run the franchise, his son-in-law said.

“Rick was proud of every one of them,” his wife said. He always wanted the owners to know that he was proud and encouraged them to “keep up the good work.”

In addition to his successful bagel career, Mr. Hartglass was well-known for his vibrant and vivacious personality.

“He came from Long Island, Brooklyn, and carried that persona,” his son-in-law said.

At his daughter Jane’s bat mitzvah in 1983, Mr. Hartglass took over the microphone with the Tony Boffa Band and sang a few songs.

“From that day on, he sang” with the Tony Boffa Band at events he attended, his wife said. “Everybody always wanted him to sing (the Rolling Stones’ song) ‘Satisfaction.’“

With three grandchildren – Jeremy, Zoe and Isabella Baker – Mr. Hartglass found a new love in his life.

“He was just so proud to be a grandfather. His whole life changed,” Gail Hartglass said.

Including his nickname. To his grandchildren, Mr. Hartglass was not Mister Bagel.

“They called him Papa Bagel,” his wife said.

 

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at: [email protected]