Ten years ago, when Zingerman’s first started giving away a half-dozen “birthday bagels,” only about twenty-five people picked them up. By last year, word of the freebie had spread, and close to 2,000 people claimed the treat at Zing’s southside Bakehouse. Free-bagel bliss ended this year. Bakehouse patrons can now pick out a free loaf of bread, up to $6.25 in value, with any purchase (even a single cookie or bagel) on their birthdays.

“When we close at seven, I don’t want to have any bagels left over,” explains Frank Carollo, the Bakehouse’s managing partner. “To me, they’re a morning thing.” Yet customers would show up at 3 or 4 in the afternoon, wanting bagels for evening or even day-after-birthday bashes. “We have a better ability not to disappoint people by allowing them to choose a free loaf of bread.”

At the nearby Zingerman’s Creamery, too, customers now must buy something to receive a free birthday gelato. At the original Deli downtown, the free bagels have been replaced by a 15 percent birthday discount. Customers will need to spend at least $55 on pastrami sandwiches or brownies to equal the $8 value the six free bagels provided.

Carollo expects Zing’s birthday treats will change again–and in less than another ten years. “We want to keep the shopping experience and our world fresh,” he says.