Breakfast Barons: Mr. Coffee, Lender's Founders Die

Two entrepreneurs who changed American breakfasts have died. Robert Siegel talks about Sam Glazer, a co-founder of the Mr. Coffee company and Murray Lender, who helped make Lender's Bagels a household name.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Now, we remember two men who changed the meaning of morning in America, first, a giant in coffee history. One of the co-founders of the company that gave us Mr. Coffee back in 1972, Samuel Glazer, has died. He was 89.

And joining me to remember Samuel Glazer and his landmark product is Oliver Strand, who writes about coffee for The New York Times.

Hi.

OLIVER STRAND: Hi.

SIEGEL: Take us back to the caffeine Pleistocene, pre-1972, before there was Mr. Coffee. What did people do to make coffee in their homes?

STRAND: In the United States, we used percolator's at home. Americans used percolators.

SIEGEL: There still were some trip pots around, though, weren't there?

STRAND: There were. There were cone filters. But in terms of what the mass audience used, it was a percolator. I think it's because Americans love an appliance. You want to be able to plug it in and push a button. And the percolator was the appliance of choice up till 1972.

SIEGEL: And I want you to explain what Samuel Glazer and his partner did, the idea they had that led to Mr. Coffee.

STRAND: They realized that there was an appliance that they could make that would produce filter coffee that was much cleaner, much sweeter and, frankly, much tastier than percolator coffee.

SIEGEL: Because that's the way that coffee was brewed on an industrial scale, if you will, for big companies and hotels.

STRAND: Yeah, there were these large batch brewers that were basically enormous versions of what we started to use in our homes; these little countertop plug-in coffee drippers.

SIEGEL: And so, he wasn't the engineer himself but they figured out let's get somebody to make a miniature version of a huge coffee brewer.

STRAND: Yeah, that's right.

SIEGEL: I'm thinking back to those days. Do you recall it catching on instantly?

STRAND: Well, I'm a little young. I wasn't a coffee drinker in 1972.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

STRAND: I wasn't much of anything in 1972. But I do remember my grandparents had a percolator, that they were still a part of that generation.

It did catch on. Within three years, one million Mr. Coffees were sold. And very soon, they came to create that market of the home drip brewer and dominate the market.

SIEGEL: Now, one of the ways they tried to reach your grandparents' generation was their very famous pitchman who appeared in commercials for Mr. Coffee in the 1970s. Here's one of those ads.

(SOUNDBITE OF A MR. COFFEE AD)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Here's Joe DiMaggio.

JOE DIMAGGIO: These are Mr. Coffee filters. This is Mr. Coffee, a precision coffee brewing system. This filter was scientifically designed to extract...

SIEGEL: And who knew science better than that Joe DiMaggio?

STRAND: Well, as far as pitches go, that's fairly accurate. It is a better way to brew than a percolator.

SIEGEL: Now, there're so many other brand names - I think there are so many other brand names out there for making coffee at home. How is Mr. Coffee doing these days?

STRAND: I think that it's a bit of a relic. It has a cherished place in American history, in part because of Joe DiMaggio. But I don't think that it's a leading item right now. I think that Americans are moving on to other methods and other ideas.

SIEGEL: And we remember today, of course, because of the death of Samuel Glazer at 89, one of the people who thought up the idea.

Oliver Strand, thanks for talking with us.

STRAND: Thank you.

SIEGEL: Oliver Strand writes about coffee for The New York Times.

Samuel Glazer is not the only entrepreneur we've lost who helped shaped our morning kitchen routine. We also remember one of the brothers who brought home the bagel.

(SOUNDBITE OF LENDER BAGELS AD)

MURRAY LENDER: Hi, I'm Murray Lender. Until now, if you wanted a bagel this delicious, you had to schlep to a bagel shop. But these are my new Lender's big and crusty bagels.

SIEGEL: Murray Lender died yesterday. People who knew bagels all their lives, we're very skeptical of the frozen Lender bagel. But it was the Lender bagel that turned the bagel into an American treat, not just a Jewish roll from someplace near New York. Murray and two of his brothers, including Marvin Lender, expanded their father's tiny Connecticut bagel shop in the late 1960s.

MARVIN LENDER: We took that product from our backyard in New Haven to national distribution where, I would say, we had a Lender's frozen bagel in just about every supermarket in the country.

SIEGEL: That's Marvin Lender talking about his brother Murray Lender, who died at age 81.

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