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Fresh Food & Friendly Service A Formula for Success

By: Maria Orlando Pietromonaco

Pam and Dean Constantatos — owners of First Class Bagels — first met while working at the Sea Coral Diner in Hauppauge. Dean wore many hats — dishwasher, busboy, waiter, and manager — and she held steady as a cashier and waitress. The rest is history...

Dean was destined to be in the restaurant business, as his lineage has strong ties to the industry. His father Jerry owned the Candlelight Diner in Commack, the Apollo in East Meadow, and the Sea Coral in Hauppauge. Dean’s family also owned pizzerias in Manhattan. He
remembers as a little boy seeing his father make the dough, and he eventually worked his way up to helping his father make the sauce — a sacred task in the culinary circle.

In 1985 Dean played pro football for the NY Giants. But while in training camp he endured injuries, so it proved to be a short career. So he decided to get involved in the next thing he loved best — the food business. He learned everything he could in the diner, taking on roles as chef, baker, cook, and grillman while working there. He then got a job in a bagel store that was owned by a friend, and again he proceeded to educate and immerse himself in the daily operation. Afteraccumulating a wealth of knowledge and experience, Dean elected to stay in the bagel business. His gut feeling was that diners might lose their popularity — but he thought bagels would always be popular.

With Pam on board, the couple looked for a location to open a bagel store. Dean’s Uncle Tommy Konstantatos helped them open a store in 1987 in Little Neck, and it turned out to be a huge success. They then opened a second one in 1991 in Manhasset (those two locations are
no longer run by Dean and Pam). They continued to spread their
bagel wings, and in 1995 they opened in East Northport and in 2004 in Deer Park. They’re actually looking to open several more stores with a new concept — but they are not ready to share that information just yet. We’ll have to wait and see what’s in store…

Dean knew their establishments couldn’t be just simple stores, and he was one of the first in the bagel business to combine a bakery and deli into one. “The more you have to offer the better you are, but it has to be fresh,” says Dean. “Eye appeal is important. It has to look good first. You can’t skimp on quality. You have to experiment, and you are always learning things.” Master baker Nick Amarantinis has brought the bakery and presentations to the next level. Their most popular offerings include 25 different paninis, cupcakes, specialty sandwiches, and of course, BAGELS.

Hard work is the key to success, says the couple. Dean was the bagel maker and the baker, working 24 hours many days and 18 hours other days. His right hand man, Richard Arocho, has been manager for 25 years and helps him run his 2 stores. Dean and Pam also have 4 kids — Nicole, 22; Andonios, 21; Justin, 19; and Amanda, 18. They’ve all pitched in at one time or another to help in the bagel stores.

The couple’s formula for staying a frontrunner is their “personality, casual ambiance, fresh product, and friendly service.” They also believe in putting money back into the business to make it better. The space is always being renovated and revitalized, keeping the atmosphere fresh, current, and clean. Dean and Pam sincerely appreciate their customers and oversee the stores first hand. “We are here all the time, watching everything and making sure everything is being run properly,” says the couple.