It takes two: The Gross twins keep the Bialy’s tradition alive in University Heights

Fraternal twins Rachel and Sarah Gross always dreamed of going into business together. “From the time we were young, we always planned business ideas,” recalls Rachel. “Our first idea was to open a snack shop on the [Brainard] circle near our house.”

The Gross twins have always been close—they even now own a house together in South Euclid—but they ran in different circles of friends growing up and developed different interests. Sarah went to Cleveland State to study business; Rachel to Ohio University to study Spanish education. “Sarah has always wanted to own her own business, and I came along for the ride,” says Rachel. “I was never opposed to owning a business, but I had a strong passion for education.”

Rachel and Sarah GrossSix years ago, the two reignited their quest to open a shop together, this time with a bagel spin. The two started with a cream cheese company, Clover Road Cream Cheese, selling it at places like the North Union Farmers Market while they began looking for space to open a bagel shop. When the chance came up to buy Bialy’s last year, Rachel and Sarah jumped at it.

“It just took us a little longer than we planned,” says Rachel. “Our family always wanted to open a bagel shop, ever since my uncle opened one. Then six years ago, when I decided I was fed up with education, we started looking into it.”

The Grosses took ownership of the popular bagel shop at 2267 Warrensville Center Road in December, after longtime owners Ellen and Mark Osolin decided to retire. They worked closely with the Osolins to make the transition and completely took over operations in March. “We’ve been on our own ever since,” says Rachel. “The whole transition went smoothly, and the previous owners made us feel comfortable.”

The twins “freshened [the store] up a little bit” when they took over—giving the shop a more open feel by removing the old coolers that were blocking the storefront windows and installing new lighting.

“We’re trying to breathe new life into the building,” says Rachel. “We’ve gotten great, positive feedback from customers that it feels cleaner, brighter, and visually appealing.”

The Grosses have a nighttime team that comes in to the shop to make the bagels, while Sarah and Rachel usually arrive at 5:30 a.m. to open the store and tend to their wholesale customers. “Some days we don’t come in until 6:00,” Rachel jokes. “But it’s only a four-minute commute.” Bagels are then continually made throughout the day.

Rachel says the hours don’t bother them. “Both of us have always been morning people,” she says. “Our dad never let us sleep past 7 a.m.”

As Bialy’s grows, Rachel says they plan to expand their offerings. They want to start selling their cream cheese again, which was put on hold because of a cream-sourcing issue, and they’d like to start selling sandwiches. The two are also working on a new line of coffee called Buster’s Brews—named after their brother who passed away in 2003. They are working with Brecksville-based Caruso’s Coffee Roasters and should launch their house blend in the next two months.

For now, Rachel says there is more work to be done at the shop. “There are significant infrastructure changes that need to be made first,” she says. “There’s no hand-washing sink on the front counter, or counter space to store meats for the sandwiches. We’d like to replace the bagel cooler to put in the sandwich center, but these are all doable things.”

While Rachel’s original passion was for education, she says she is equally thrilled with the path she chose. “Sarah’s more of a put-your-foot-down person, I’m more of an easygoing person,” she explains. “Life led me in a different direction, so I’m totally okay with that.”

So far, the experience has been a rewarding one. “The best part is hearing how much Bialy’s means to our customers,” she says. “We have people telling us all the time that they’re taking our bagels all over the country and even the world. They all stop in on their way to the airport.”

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Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.
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