Goodbye, Bagel Man! Carbondale says farewell to community staple

Goodbye, Bagel Man! Carbondale says farewell to community staple
Jessica & Jeff Block with Winston (Source: Amy Cope)
Jessica & Jeff Block with Winston (Source: Amy Cope)
Jessica Block with Winston and her bagel! (Source: Amy Cope)
Jessica Block with Winston and her bagel! (Source: Amy Cope)

CARBONDALE, IL (KFVS) - A long-standing tradition in Carbondale, Illinois is coming to an end.

Winston Mezo, known fondly by many as 'Winston the Bagel Man,' will be closing up shop this weekend.

"Alright it's going to be 5.50 of your hard earned money please" is what you hear, very polite and humble.

Winston has been serving Carbondale students after their long nights out since 1983.

"I had no idea it would be like this, I thought it would be busy but not like this this early," Winston explains the crowd. At the end of this era, on one his last nights, hundreds of people gathered – either for their first bagel or even their last nostalgic one.

Miles Daniels & Rachel Robinson, Carbondale residents said, "I just came out here to get some of Winston's last bagels before he retires…the ending of a legacy."

Lynn Flamm, a former SIU graduate in 80s, brought her 16-years old daughter to experience Winston's Bagels.  "Sad to see the bagel man leave, he's an icon of Carbondale. After going out at night,  he's just what the college kids look for. He's a positive person at the end of the night to see and it's just been a great ride," Flamm explains.

Flamm remembers her experiences very vividly.  "[19]88 – my freshman year at SIU (What was it like then?)  The same the same it looked the same and it was so good and I got the same every time."

Winston comes early to set up, prep, and get the heat going…He can make about 4 bagels in one minute. Not to mention, his jokes. The infamous jokes about… his nephew.

"I only give them what they want they want on them, I don't care who it is Thanks to my younger nephew helping…Only 29 and already a sophomore at the HS," Winston jokes.

Despite the laughter and wisdom, it wasn't always like this….

"I'm a recovering alcoholic. I've got 35 years sobriety…I was in a 12 step group and wanted to getting sober. Unemployable – I drank it all up. Everything I had I drank up for the last twenty years. I drank up relationships, jobs, whatever, I didnt have nothing," Winston modestly explains.

Winston says working his bagel cart, is what kept him busy and not drinking. "I did it to have something to do. There's nothing worse with a guy trying to recover with nothing to do."

When he retires, Winston will spend more time at the Rec, his pool tournaments and even his 12 step group.

"I'll be able to do a little more of it now since I won't have to worry about getting this stuff Thursday, Friday and Saturday. I'm looking forward to that part of it," Winston states. "More I'm working with someone else, the less I'm thinking about my problems."

For years, he's set up Thursday through early Sunday morning across the street from Pinch Penny Pub on East Grand Avenue. Rain, or shine, sleet, or snow.

But, Mezo said with the forecast looking stormy, he will likely make Thursday his grand finale.

He said the only thing that could keep him from his cart tonight is "a call from Hollywood, the CIA, or President Trump."

Members of the Illinois House of Representatives passed a resolution congratulating Winston on his "distinguished career."

Thanks for all the late night snacks and memories, Winston!

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