Sidney Chassy, Bay Area bagel king, dies at 79

Find one thing in life and do it better than anyone else. Sidney Chassy took that adage and added a big hole in the middle.

The founder of the Bay Area’s House of Bagels, Chassy took a boyhood job making New York bagels and went on to create an empire. More than that, he helped pioneer the rise of the bagel, from its humble origins to major global foodstuff.

Sidney Chassy died May 24 from complications of a stomach disorder. He was 79.

Not long ago, Chassy’s son Larry showed his father a photo of a House of Bagels truck making a delivery in Hong Kong. That’s how far and wide the family business has grown.

“He was just amazed that this little shop he started on Geary had blossomed,” Larry Chassy recalled. “That’s all I remember my father ever doing: working as a bagel baker.”

Chassy did do more. He and his wife of 47 years, the late Bea Chassy, raised three sons. After moving to the Bay Area in 1961, he also became active with Congregation Beth Israel-Judea, the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco and other Jewish institutions.

But as his son notes, Sidney Chassy will forever be linked with the House of Bagels, the region’s first bagel shop.

Born the son of Russian Jewish immigrants in Cairo, N.Y., Chassy started working at age 13 for his older brothers, who owned a Brooklyn bagel store. By age 21, he had married Beatrice Hymen and moved to Long Island, all the while mastering his bagel-making skills.

Sensing that the Bay Area was in dire need of a good, honest bagel, Chassy moved his family west in 1961, settling in Daly City. He opened his first bakery at Second and Geary, calling it the Golden Gate Bake Shop. In 1964, with Bea at his side, he launched the original House of Bagels on 14th and Geary, where it still stands.

There were no pumpkin or tomato-basil bagels at Chassy’s place. Just the basics: plain, egg, sesame, onion, poppy seed, rye and pumpernickel, handcrafted from recipes unchanged to this day (those recipes are locked up tight in a family safe). “It was the only place in town,” said Larry Chassy. “People came from all over.”

In time, Chassy and his sons opened stores in San Rafael, Sunnyvale, Burlingame and other locales.

Larry Chassy remembered his father as a good family man, but first and foremost as a hard worker. “On our first vacation we went to Disneyland,” he recalled. “He dropped us off and went to Long Beach to buy a bagel machine. He worked long hours when we were growing up, but we had a good home life and wanted for nothing.”

When his wife suffered a stroke in 1994, Chassy reluctantly retired. Bea died the following year, and soon after Chassy himself experienced health problems. But he kept up his interest in the family business, by then taken over by his sons, and enjoyed spending time with his four grandchildren.

“He came here with three young kids, struggling to launch the business,” said Larry Chassy. “It wasn’t easy. But he was a great man, an entrepreneur, a hard-working guy who launched the bagel industry.”

Sidney Chassy is survived by sons Joel Chassy of Morgan Hill, Harvey Chassy of Hillborough. and Larry Chassy of San Carlos; grandchildren Ross, Kelly, Cole and Alexandra Chassy; and sister Marsha Levy of New Jersey.

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.