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"Brooklynized" water and Barclays Center: teasing out the ironies, plus the Yormark connection

Can "Brooklynized" water be recreated in a lab and marketed by a Florida company?

And then can it be sold, straight-faced, to people in Brooklyn, who could get "Brooklyn" water through a much easier process, especially when the water is the subject of a lawsuit challenging its authenticity?

That's the subject of a brief article I have today in New York magazine's Grub Street blog, which points to the contrast with Bruce Ratner's professed interested in authentic Brooklyn purveyors.

Below, much more detail, including--natch--the role of the ubermarketing Yormark twins.

(The New York Post has a follow-up too, with no credit to the Grub Street story that inspired it. But the Post has the news that the water will be bottled in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and upstate New York, and dismay from local bagel makers. All that's been previously announced is that the water, not the bagels, would be sold at the arena. But the Post is right in characterizing how arena operators "grudgingly confirmed" the Brooklyn water deal; after all, it has not been played up.)

The back story

The exclusive bottled water destined for the Barclays Center comes from The Original Brooklyn Water Bottling Company, based in Boca Raton

A new but rapidly growing Florida-based franchise, The Original Brooklyn Water Bagel Co., claims the secret to making great bagels is to "Brooklynize" the water via a custom filtration process so it resembles "Brooklyn" water --which, of course, is actually just New York water.

Each franchise has its own water processing facility ("Brooklyn Water Works"), and they sell their own bottled water. The owners created a sibling company for the water alone and are shipping bottles to supplement the on-site production..

Legendary Brooklynite Larry King has been signed as an official spokesman for the bagel firm, and got a piece of the Beverly Hills store. "When I left Brooklyn, I always appreciated a glass of water," he rasps in a promo video. "A glass of water tasted different. I never tasted water like I tasted in Brooklyn."

That may work in Florida, where the bagels, actually, get some pretty good reviews, and the stores boast Brooklyn memorabilia and offer egg creams.

(Nearly all the franchise locations are in Florida, with a few in California, and locations coming in Charlotte, Atlanta, and Baltimore. Every bagel store is a fitted with Brooklyn-related memorabilia, including the Dodgers. Presumably they'll add the Brooklyn Nets!)

What's the deal with bringing "Brooklyn" water to Brooklyn? I suspect the priority is less to wow Brooklyn visitors but build the firm's public profile and franchise push. That profile, however, is taking a bit of a hit because of a lawsuit claiming the water filtration plan is a sham.

The history

According the Brooklyn Water Bagels web site:
[CEO and Founder Steven] Fassberg began developing the concept for real New York water bagels in June 2004, and has been working diligently full time for the last seven years on the development of the franchise model, menu items, operating procedures and food delivery systems. He has fully tested every aspect of the operational franchise model, and has had the benefit of some of the best and brightest minds in QSR who have helped shape the model to perfection. His vision for The Original Brooklyn Water Bagel Co. franchise model was derived from 25 years of experience in the worlds of restaurant and finance.
The competitive edge, according to the company, involves The Brooklyn Water Works:
The layout at The Original Brooklyn Water Bagel Co. has a dramatic "see-through" preparation and delivery area that allows you, the customer, to experience the entire bagel baking process from start to finish. Upon entering our facility, you will be looking through a glass enclosure which will enable you to view our impressive and proprietary water treatment system at work. The system is branded as the "Brooklyn Water Works" and features a replica of an old Brooklyn water tower and "Willy Wonka" oversized piping, valves, bells and whistles. You will notice that the water is being filtered and purified then piped out for storage and to the beverage and ice dispensers as well as the kitchen and the adjacent kettle used to boil the bagels.
Can it be duplicated?

There was a previous lawsuit in Florida, and the Wall Street Journal, in October 2010, quoted a New York official:
"We don't know if it's possible to truly replicate New York water but it's not surprising that someone would try," said Michael Saucier, spokesman for the Department of Environmental Protection.
Starting with the Yormarks in Florida

In September 2010, Sports Business Journal reported how Florida Panthers CEO Michael Yormark, the twin brother Nets CEO Brett Yormark, signed a deal with the bagel company, in Florida Panthers sign bagel restaurant to open two locations: The Florida Panthers are bringing a taste of Brooklyn to BankAtlantic Center and their practice facility:
The terms of the agreement have the bagelmaker running new bagel and pretzel stands inside the arena in suburban Fort Lauderdale and taking over the food operation at the Panthers’ practice complex, Iceplex, a 125,000-square-foot facility in Coral Gables with three ice sheets and a restaurant.
...It is Brooklyn Water Bagel’s first effort in sports. The $1 million-plus investment includes the cost to build an off-site commissary to produce the flour and dough required to make fresh bagels at the arena and practice facility, Fassberg said.
...Regardless of the recipe, it’s still good marketing, said food consultant Chris Bigelow. “It’s kind of like ‘Cuba seed’ tobacco in cigars,” he said.
The franchise push

In August 2011, the company announced a new finance company to build franchises, given the lack of conventional financing:
The Original Brooklyn Water Enterprises, the company that launched The Original Brooklyn Water Bagel Co., the pioneering bakery/cafĂ© restaurant that creates Brooklynized™ water for use in all of its food, beverage and bakery products, today unveiled a new finance company. The Original Brooklyn Water Finance Co. will help fuel the company’s explosive growth, and it has already made its first loan to Michael D’Angelo, the company’s first franchisee and former New York City firefighter, to open restaurants in more locations. He opened his first restaurant in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
The bottling company and the Barclays deal

From an 11/10/11 press release, Brooklyn Water Enterprises Inc. Launches Bottling Company:
Brooklyn Water Enterprises Inc., the pioneering company that creates Brooklynized™ water for use in all its restaurants’ food, beverage and bakery products, today announced the launch of The Original Brooklyn Water Bottling Co. In partnership with Keystone Water Company in Lake Placid, Fla., the bottling company has begun delivering water to company restaurants from the first of several planned regional bottling facilities.
...“Having our bottled Brooklynized water produced at the plants will allow restaurants to have more product on hand while reducing labor and increasing profitability,” said Steven M. Fassberg, founder, chairman and chief executive officer.
The bottling company and The Original Brooklyn Water Bagel Co. are subsidiaries of Brooklyn Water Enterprises Inc. The company uses its 14-step proprietary water technology to create Brooklynized water in each of its restaurants, and now at the plant. The bottling plant has the capacity to create 50,000 bottles of Brooklynized water per day.
The BankAtlantic Center, one of South Florida’s premier sports and entertainment venues, is already offering The Original Brooklyn Water as its premium bottled water, and it will be offered as the exclusive bottled water at the Barclays Center, the new home for the Brooklyn Nets scheduled to open in September 2012.
Why King signed on

In September 2010, Franchise Times reported on King's role:
There are multiple reasons why King is involved with Brooklyn Water Bagel Co. when he’s shied away from other commercial endorsements. “I would never do a commercial for products I didn’t believe in,” he says. “I always check out products I endorse.” This chain however, had a lot to offer, including his long-term friendship with investor Sid Young–the two grew up together in Brooklyn and now have breakfast in Beverly Hills every morning–his love for all things Brooklyn, and the chewy, boiled bagels that are unique to Brooklyn.
“I have intense feelings of belonging to Brooklyn” King says. “Guys from Brooklyn are different.” There’s a strong sense of community, he adds, so much so that at the time he was growing up in Brooklyn, “going into the ‘city’ was like going to a foreign place.”
Being part of Brooklyn Water Bagel is a trip down memory lane. “That’s what I associate it to–going home,” he says.
Maybe he believes the bagels are a step up from bagels in Florida and California. But even Larry King might have some trouble bringing "Brooklynized" water to Brooklyn.


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