He's not sure how, but local organizations manage to track Paul Schloss down. The Manhattan Bagel franchisee in Henderson, Nevada, doesn't mind filling the requests for donations, as long as the cause is worthy. And how does he determine what's worthy? "It's just a gut feeling. It's easy to tell who's credible and who's not after you've heard the same stories over and over again," explains Schloss.
For Schloss, 34, charity work has always been important, a priority instilled by his parents. So when he took on his first Manhattan Bagel franchise in 1999, it made perfect sense to serve not only bagels and pastries, but also the interests of community organizations.
"We have a product that's only sellable for one day. Some might consider all that excess product waste, but we saw opportunities to help others," Schloss explains.
Every day, leftover bagels from Schloss' two franchises (the second is located in Henderson) are donated to local homeless and women's shelters. Sometimes Schloss' teenage employees make the deliveries themselves. "It's kind of an eye opener for them to realize what's out there and know they're helping out," he says.
Requests come in throughout the day-pleas for everything from bagels for a charity race to money for a Little League sponsorship. "Ninety percent [of the requests] get filled, so not too many walk away empty-handed," says Schloss.
The 10 percent that do are often for-profit companies looking for free bagels to serve at events or to offer as employee incentives. "I always wonder where they got the nerve to ask," Schloss says, "but we just have to weed them out."
Pet causes of employees are rarely rejected. Schloss' employees often approach him about support for their school clubs or band. "We're also inclined to help out our customers," he says. "They're giving to us, so we give back to them."
All this is just part of the 12 hours Schloss invests in his stores each day. "It's just become so natural, that it's actually a part of the day. We just juggle," Schloss says of the daily stream of requests, deliveries and pick-ups.
Last Christmas, that juggling act went into overdrive. For one week, Schloss donated more than 1,000 fresh bagels to eight local charities, including four selected by the mayor of Las Vegas. This year, a different community figure will choose four organizations that will receive a free bagel breakfast.
Meanwhile, Schloss plans to open two more locations in the next 18 months. Though this growth will keep him more than busy, he doesn't see any reason not to stop making community service an integral part of his business. "Not being selfish," Schloss says, "is the right thing to do."