When a bagel is more than a bagel
By Danielle Perera
As a child, my attachment to bagels rivaled little else. I had a blanket that I kept until I was embarrassingly adult, but my love for bagels has been with me since I was old enough to eat one. On Saturdays, my mom would take me to the bagel store and we would pick up a dozen. I only liked plain as the extremely picky eater I once was.
I would sit in the car, wait for her to come out with the brown paper bag, and bite into a perfect, slightly crisp, warm bagel. It was a bit like heaven. If memories are tied to food, bagels are one of true joy for me.
When I moved to Florida, over 25 years ago, I was shattered to learn that bagels were not bagels. There were some attempts to trick me into thinking they were bagels but they were just sad substitutes of the real thing. Words cannot express the void that no bagels created in my life and while I would like to pretend I am exaggerating, I am not. Let’s just say that perhaps in combination with moving as a 10-year-old, it was a devastating time.
For the next 15 years, there were literally no good bagels. I lived on the West Coast of Florida and then off to Gainesville for college and I suffered through my life without any true bagel joy. It wasn’t until 2009 that I felt perhaps there was hope. I moved to S. Florida and there were plenty of decent bagels and my love of bagels began to blossom once again.
When Jeff and I started dating, our combined love of food really was fundamental to our relationship. We ate, gained some weight, and my love of food beyond bagels truly grew. It was a shared love that has carried us through some challenging times, heartaches, and tremendous joys. A shared meal continues to lead us to our best ideas, our continual compromises, and the birth of this business.
When Jeff got laid off and I went back to work and Jeff started this mostly on a whim, our life was altered forever in a way I could not predict or anticipate. It has brought me the most incredible joy to see my literal love of bagels be shared with so many people. It has been incredibly hard at times, when we have disappointed customers, or had backlash because we don’t have enough or because we didn’t get the ordering system right in the beginning. We have faltered and we have struggled and fought in the kitchen over how much everything seasoning should be on a bagel. Jeff says less, I say more.
When the pandemic hit, I remember running around trying to buy as much flour as I could because I knew that if we were all stuck inside, bagels could be hope. Because as a kid, bagels were tied to joy for me, and if I could try and make sure that people had something to look forward to, perhaps it could get me through the uncertainty and the fear that was in front of me.
And so we baked. Every morning during lockdown, Jeff and I baked to try and share some joy. It was a way to get to the next day, to not be afraid, to just push through and try and not let the fear of what was to come. A dozen at a time.
And here we are. One year later. So much has changed.
I am still afraid sometimes. I am still afraid we will let people down, we won’t grow fast enough for our customers. We will make mistakes and we will bake the wrong thing. But beyond my fear is hope; that this small endeavor that really wasn’t anything, will continue to mean something to people. It is hope that someday we can serve more people in our community and eventually become a place to gather, to share ideas, to inspire one another to build small businesses and don’t let fear hold you back. We are so invested in this community and the relationships we have built with our customers who are incredibly kind and supportive, who lift us up, when we have been afraid.
To those of you who have supported us, we are incredibly grateful. Your kindness is uplifting. It is a gift that encourages us to keep going, whether it’s a note, a comment, a like, a bag of cookies, a bag of coffee, a smile, a wave, ALL of it, it is so much more than you know. It is the glue of our family at times, our shared love of bagels, it is the magic that fills our kitchen every morning.
So on this one year anniversary, and also my birthday, I would like to just say how thankful I am for the Bagel Run. It has given me so much in this past year, a year that has been so awful in so many ways, but I want to remember when I look back, of the hope we took from it and hopefully the hope we gave.