Schmear some cream cheese out, Murray Lender has died. Whatever you think of frozen bagels (and we've certainly got issues) many Americans would not know the joy of the bagel were it not for Lender, who helped turn his father's small New Haven bakery into a national brand. According to Lender's wife, Gillie Lender, the bagel legend died yesterday in Miami after suffering a stroke 10 weeks ago. He was 81.

Lender's father Harry founded Lender's Bagels in New Haven in 1927 and by the 1950s it was a major distributor in the area. So much so that the company began baking its Sunday bagels earlier in the week and freezing them to help meet the demand (9,000 bagels in a morning is a lot).

The new system eased life for the Lenders but it was, in the words of one observer, a “perilous experiment.” It was also, at first, a family secret. “No one was allowed to know that these bagels were frozen!” Harry’s niece Esther remembered. Though evidently customers could not taste the difference, “everyone wanted fresh bagels.” The Lenders managed to keep their innovation quiet for almost two years. Then, one Sunday, somehow, somebody neglected to thaw the bagels, and the driver delivered them all frozen. “The customers were furious,” Murray recalled. “‘Get this junk out of here’ was the typical reaction.” Murray ultimately assuaged the bakeries’ concerns—after all, they had been selling frozen bagels for nearly two years without complaint.

Soon after, in 1955, Murray finished a stint in the Army and began working at the bakery full-time. Now that everyone knew about the frozen concept, he ran with it. Selling Lender's Bagels up the coast, specifically hitting up the hotels in the Catskills. Harry Lender died in 1960 and his sons Murray and Sam took over. Soon enough, Lender's Bagels were a very big deal.

In 1984 the company was sold to Kraft Foods. It is now owned by Pinnacle Foods Group. Murray Lender's funeral is set for Sunday in Woodbridge, Connecticut, where he had a home.