Amid the closed storefronts and "for lease" signs visible throughout Beverly Hills, there is a new business in town that's making a name for itself with the help of one well-known resident.
Larry King is now the national spokesperson for The Original Brooklyn Water Bagel Co., which opened its first West Coast location Friday at 262 S. Beverly Drive.
"The people who started it, some very enterprising young men, came to me about a year ago and they said, 'We have a process by which we can actually duplicate the water that is in the system in New York, in Brooklyn,' " King said. "The water is near prefect. They're able to duplicate that and therefore through that process can make a better bagel."
So what makes the water used by The Original Brooklyn Water Bagel Co. so special? The process by which water is "Brooklynized" remains a secret, but the end result is to strip hard water of its high mineral content so that it becomes "soft," like the water that comes out of New York taps.
Soft water is treated so that the only ion it contains is sodium. New York bagel aficionados have long claimed that bagels boiled in soft water before being baked have crustier outsides and chewier insides than those boiled in hard water.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, King said it was a "natural fit" to represent the company as it opens its doors in Beverly Hills, where the former host of CNN's Larry King Live has lived since 1997.
But King is more than just another famous face in town. He came to SoCal in the mid-90s to cover the O.J. Simpson murder trial and stayed after meeting his wife, Shawn Southwick. The couple have two sons, Chance, 12, and Cannon, 10.
King is a strong supporter of the city's education system. Both his children attend .
"I’m a public school guy. I prefer them. I like the mix," he said. "The teachers are extraordinary. They e-mail you every day. They have conferences. They stay on top of the students and they have a very good physical education program, music program, which they haven't cut."
When asked about , King said it wouldn’t keep him from enrolling his kids there.
"I had a subway under my high school," he said, but noted that disrupting the lives of residents may not be worth the route. "Will this bring riffraff to Beverly Hills? That turns me off."
King said he understands the security concerns expressed by parents, but noted the need for improved transportation in the area.
"We have to figure out better ways to move around without automobiles," he said. "This is an automobile-infested community."
After 54 years in the broadcasting business, King is excited about his partnership with The Original Brooklyn Water Bagel Co., an upcoming international comedy tour and other projects. But more than anything, he is looking forward to spending time with his family.
"The No. 1 thing in my life is, with the wife, taking the kids to school every day, picking them up in the afternoon. And coaching them, watching them put on their uniforms," said King, whose sons play Beverly Hills Little League at La Cienega and Roxbury parks. "Thursdays and Sundays are off limits because I coach."
Whether or playing ball with them at the park, it's not uncommon to see King around town. Next time you're on South Beverly Drive, stop by The Original Brooklyn Water Bagel Co. and there's a good chance you’ll see him there.
So what’s King’s favorite bagel?
"Bagel, cream cheese, lox—salty bagel," he said. "I was raised on lox."