CARBONDALE — A little piece of Carbondale history has gone up for sale on Craigslist.
For 34 years, Winston “the Bagel Man” Mezo served up hot bagels to the late-night bar crowd, most recently in the parking lot of Pinch Penny Liquors on Grand Avenue.
Now his iconic bagel cart is listed on the classifieds website for $3,500. That price includes the cart itself and “all cart equipment, grill, utensils, coolers and a 1998 Econoline Ford ¾ ton Van,” according to the ad.
Mezo’s bagels, topped with everything from cucumbers to bacon bits to apples, were beloved by his mostly college-age regulars.
He said that about a dozen people have expressed interest in the equipment but that it’s still currently available. He’d prefer to sell the cart to someone who plans to operate it in Carbondale, although that’s not a requirement.
“I’d really like to for a few reasons — I can help them out if they’re close. I said I’d go up there every once in a while, and I can give them a lot of shortcuts and help them out and just be around if they need something or want to know something about it,” Mezo said.
He said he could demonstrate how to quickly set up, load and unload the cart, and where and how to get supplies.
“It looks like a three-ring circus if you don’t know,” he said. “ … There’s a lot of things I could show them that took me many moons to learn how to perfect.”
Much of Mezo’s appeal stemmed from his good-natured banter with customers. His most recognizable schtick was a series of jokes about a made-up, slow-witted nephew. “My younger nephew is the brains behind the operation — only 27 and already a sophomore at the high school,” he’d say. “He thought the Pony Express was a racetrack and the Supreme Court was where the NBA played their championship games.”
Developing a rapport with customers is important, he said.
“With these students, (school is) a big concern of theirs and they want to talk about it. Be a good listener if they do. Be friendly. The main thing is to be friendly and to keep a good attitude,” Mezo said.
Mezo, who left the business in April at the age of 75, said retirement has been a “mixed bag.” He has more time to spend at SIU’s Recreation Center and to play pool, but he still sometimes misses those late nights serving grilled bagels to hungry bar-goers and joking around with his regulars.
“I don’t miss that 4 o’clock in the morning, loading it up, rain, snow, sleet or hail and then going to Walmart all dirty and trying to pound down coffee to keep going. But I do miss the action up there. And those kids, I really miss those kids,” he said.