Less than a year ago, Winnipeg did not have any specialty bagel shops. They could be purchased from bakeries or delis, but the gap in the market got some people thinking. By January 2021, Winnipeg had three bagel-focused businesses: Hudson Bagels, Bagelsmith and Bagel Brothers.
The idea of Hudson Bagels, the brainchild of dietitian Jessica Wylychenko and her partner, Chris Silva, was born when the couple saw the former Boon Burger building for lease. The couple had enjoyed bagels in Toronto, Montreal and New York on their travels and were not able to replicate the experience here, so they decided to fill the gap in the market.
“Bagels are a very humble food item,” Wylychenko says. “I like that it’s an everyday item, like a bit of affordable luxury.”
Among several other flavours, Hudson Bagels sells a Winnipeg-style rye bagel, which is inspired by both New York and Montreal-style bagels, taking elements of both.
“All our bagels are all hand-rolled, and they’re boiled in sweet honey water. That’s the Montreal element. Then we bake them off to a nice, thick, puffy rise within a convection oven, which is the New York element,” she says. “It is like rye bread, (which is) very reminiscent of what we kind of grew up in and gravitated towards.”
Bagelsmith opened its Carlton Street storefront in October 2020. Bagelsmith sells Montreal-style bagels with a wider variety of sandwiches and spreads (which they call schmears) than their competitors.
One thing that sets Bagelsmith apart is its wholesale distribution. Their bagels are sold in nine different stores in Winnipeg.
“That has exploded on us in the last month and a half,” owner Phil Klein says. “That was something that we didn’t really foresee or anticipate becoming such a large part of the business.”
Of the three bagel shops, Bagel Brothers is the only one owned and operated by an experienced chef. Nelson Soriano trained at Ottawa’s Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts Institute before working in a bagel shop in Montreal. After travelling to Thailand and back to Winnipeg, he opened a bagel business with his brother Jan and the support of some close friends.
Their sourdough bagels are only available by delivery in packs of four and come with one of their cream cheeses. They are the only local bagel business without a physical store.
“If we did invest in a storefront, we wouldn’t (have) used it to 100 per cent of its potential,” Soriano says. “We focused on online sales, logistics and just building the brand.”
Hudson Bagels, Bagelsmith and Bagel Brothers have flooded the market, but all have seen great sales in these past few months.
Klein says having three bagel shops contributes to the hype. “There’s almost 750,000 people in the city. There’s enough room to accommodate a handful of bagel shops. Competition just breeds more business for everybody, ” Klein says. “It becomes a craze. It keeps you on your toes.”
Hudson Bagels is at 79 Sherbrook St. Order weekly delivery at hudsonbagels.ca. Bagelsmith is at 185 Carlton St. Order daily delivery at bagelsmith.ca. Order weekly bagel care packages from Bagel Brothers at bagelbrothers.ca.
Published in Volume 75, Number 21 of The Uniter (March 11, 2021)