Bagel Bites turns over
BASALT Local bagel fans can rest easy – their morning fix is secure.A Basalt couple has stepped up to assume the role of baker and distributor of Bagel Bites, a Roaring Fork Valley purveyor of the delightful rings of baked bread for a dozen years.
Founders Bud and Connie Hickman put their family-run bagel enterprise on the market more than a year ago after 11 years of baking and distributing daily to outlets up and down the valley, including a small chain of Bagel Bites restaurants. They found their successors in Susan DeCillis and Steve Smith. She’s a pastry chef looking to get back into the kitchen; he’s an Aspen cop who’s consumed his share of Bagel Bites product over the years. The longtime area residents both hail from New York originally – in other words, they know bagels.Baking them, though, is another matter, DeCillis quickly concedes.
“I’ve been making bread my whole life, and bagels are the biggest mystery,” she said.But the deal to purchase the bakery operation at the Basalt Design Center, as well as the Bagel Bites outlet in El Jebel, included the Hickman family recipes for both bagels and a line of ice cream that is also made there.Bagels are traditionally boiled, but the scalding water is a liability, so Bagel Bites bagels are -as the company motto boasts – “baked at high altitude” in a process that must be adjusted in accordance with the season as well as the elevation, according to Steve. It’s a tricky business, in which quality control is paramount. A well-made bagel is symmetrical, with a delicately browned crust encasing the dense, chewy bread.
The Hickmans launched Bagel Bites with family members helping run the bakery and each of four restaurants in the chain. Now, the children have moved on to other endeavors and the elder Hickmans are ready to retire.They sold the Aspen Bagel Bites restaurant a year ago and a change in ownership of the remaining outlet in Glenwood Springs is pending (a second Bagel Bites in Glenwood is now the Sacred Grounds coffee shop, but it still sells Bagel Bites bagels). Smith and DeCillis bought the bakery in February and took over the El Jebel Bagel Bites outlet April 5.The Hickmans were actually hoping to sell the bakery first, to ensure the buyers would continue to make bagels for the restaurants, but wound up selling the Aspen restaurant before they found a taker for the bakery. Nonetheless, the future of the enterprise appears secure.”I think Susan and Steve will do fine,” said Connie Hickman. “She’s a baker, and we always felt the bakery needed a baker. I just felt like it would be a good match.”
The Hickmans were asking $149,000 for the bakery when it went on the market; the eventual sale price was not disclosed.Owner of the former Upper Crust at the Aspen Business Center, DeCillis started out selling baked goods wholesale until the business evolved into selling directly to customers. But, she closed the operation in 2001, deciding the baking business on top of her then-job with the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority was too much.DeCillis continued to bake out of her home, but she longed to get back into the business – with a roomy place to bake and her own retail space. Smith called an old friend, Bud Hickman, about his bakery.”I walked into the kitchen and I was, ‘Oh-my-God, this is my kitchen – this is me,'” DeCillis said.Six weeks later, the deal was done.DeCillis, currently employed at the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport, anticipates making Bagel Bites her full-time job eventually, and Smith, a one-time New York delicatessen employee who will run the El Jebel restaurant, suspects his 27-year career in law enforcement may be winding down. He’s currently a sergeant with the Aspen Police Department.”When I realized the extent of the business, what’s all involved, it occurred to me I was taking the first step toward my exit strategy from government work,” he said. “It’s nice to know there’s something beyond law enforcement.”
Already, DeCillis is cooking up plans to broaden the Bagel Bites line, adding pastries to the bakery’s output and experimenting with gluten-free bagels for those who can’t eat the wheat and other grains that are typical components of dough.
They may add another variety or two to the flavors of cream cheese mixed at the bakery, and DeCillis is considering adding sorbet to the line of ice creams. And, she’s exploring the opportunity make organic ice cream, or incorporate locally grown fruit into the treat.Bagel Bites will continue to produce Bud’s Mud, the ice cream sold at the West Glenwood Mall and El Jebel outlets for Bagel Bites.The retail presence in El Jebel – the restaurant is in Orchard Plaza – was a key attraction for DeCillis. She envisions the sort of bakery one might find in New York – bagels, pastries and cookies that customers can purchase by the pound, as well as ice cream, sold by the cone and the pint.”That’s something nobody’s doing here,” she said.
And the growing valley, not to mention the population boom west of Glenwood Springs, should ensure a growing market for Bagel Bites products, the operation’s new owners believe.”There’s so many people out there – and they need bagels,” DeCillis declared.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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