Article By: Paul Long
Photos By: Josh Triggs
Tradition counts for a lot at Royalicious Bagel Bakery and New York Style Deli. The family-owned business, located at 126 Patrick Henry Way in Charles Town, traces its roots through several generations of the Costantino family, which came to Jefferson County from New York City by way of Germantown, Md.
Owner John Costantino opened the shop in 2011 with the help of his wife, Cookie, and daughter Jackie. Following Cookie’s death about two years ago, Jackie became co-owner of the shop.
The Costantinos are of Russian Jewish and Sicilian descent. Their ancestors came to America through Ellis Island and settled in New York, where John’s grandfather and father operated family owned bakeries. John is originally from Queens and operated his own bakery and deli on Long Island for several years. He sold the business before making the move to Germantown in 1992. There, he owned the Royal Bagel Bakery and Deli for approximately two decades before deciding to sell it.
The family was living in Jefferson, Md., and John and Cookie were doing a lot of traveling until Cookie and Jackie persuaded John to open up a location closer to home. Weary of the nearly 30- mile drive to Germantown, he agreed, and soon chose Charles Town for the new business, cutting nearly 10 miles off his daily commute.
The daily drive became even shorter a year later when, about a year after the Royalicious Bagel Bakery and New York Style Deli opened its doors in Charles Town, the Costantino family made the move to Charles Town.
John said he enjoys the much shorter drive to work each day.
“I like it here,” he said recently, explaining that the move from New York to Germantown was a big change, and while Germantown’s population exploded, Charles Town has maintained its small town character.
Royalicious Bagel Bakery and New York Style Deli makes its products fresh on the premises each day. In addition to bagels, served with cream cheese, the shop offers desserts, baked goods, New Yorkstyle hard rolls and subs and sandwiches made with Boars Head cold cuts, a staple of many New York delicatessens. The bakery also sells hard, crunchy, old-style Italian bread and New York-style hard rolls.
The shop also offers catering ranging from Sunday morning bagel and pastry deliveries to graduation parties, office meetings and even baby namings, according to its website.
For the benefit of Eastern Panhandle residents heading to work in Washington, D.C., or, perhaps, to jobs a little closer to home, the Royalicious Bagel Bakery and New York Style Deli opens its doors at 6 a.m. each weekday.
While the shop has become popular in Charles Town, its customers come from far beyond Jefferson County. Former customers from Germantown have remained loyal to the Costantinos and often make the trip to the Eastern Panhandle. Others come from Martinsburg, northern Virginia and even some from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, who stop in whenever they pass through this area.
“It’s what we know; it’s what we do,” said Jackie Costantino. “You wouldn’t think in thing would sell out, but they do.” A big part of growing his business, according to John Costantino, has been educating new customers who may not be familiar with many of the products. Once they try them, he said, they almost always come back for more.
Running a business in a small community such as Charles Town has its advantages, but it also means the Costantinos need to draw from a larger geographical area. “It’s smaller,” John said, “so on weekends we rely on people coming from outside the area.” He estimated his customer base is comprised of a 50-50 mix of tourists and Eastern Panhandle residents.
John and Jackie are currently looking for a larger location for their growing business, and have also discussed opening a second location, perhaps in Martinsburg or in Winchester, Va. It’s a big step, though, and John isn’t sure if he’ll follow through.
“All the years I’ve been in it,” he said, “I’ve only had one store.”
At the age of 56, John is also thinking about slowing down, perhaps even retiring in the next few years. That, too, is subject to change.
“You do something all your life, it’s not easy to let go,” he said.
Recently, the Royalicious Bagel Bakery and New York Style Deli has begun offering online ordering. Customers can usually pick up their orders within an hour of calling them in.
To keep up with growing demand, the Costantinos currently have approximately 15 people working for them. A sampling of the dessert offerings available on the shop’s website, royaliciousbagelbakery.com, reveals a wide variety of unique offerings, including a rainbow cookie box for $18.95, cinnamon sticks for $13.95, Italian wedding cookies for $14.95, a box of chocolate biscotti cookies for $14.95, chocolate walnut meringue cookies, also for $14.95; almond cookies, anginetti and an assorted butter cookie box, all for $14.95; and an assorted butter cookie platter for $45.95.
Through the years, as his passion for food has taken him from New York to Maryland to West Virginia, one thing hasn’t changed, according to John: His commitment to his customers, which have included soldiers and Secret Service employees, among others. “We’re worth a try and we’ll go out of our way to please you,” he said. “It’s what we do.”
The Royalicious Bagel Bakery and New York Style Deli is open Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m., Saturday from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. and Sunday from 7 a.m. until 4 p.m. It can be found in the Walmart shopping center, just east of the junction of U.S. Route 340 and W.Va. 9. For more information, or to place an order, call (304) 728-4663.