Artisan bagels get community support

When a commercial kitchen mixer showed up at Larry’s Secondhand Shop (at the St. George transfer station) last year, it immediately drew interested shoppers like flies to honey. Luckily for Jan McCoy, her partner, Bob Conrad, saw it first, put down a deposit and scurried home to report the find to her. Within minutes she was making her way home to OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWiley Farm with yet another piece of prized equipment for her fledgling bagel factory, The Bagel Shack.

“All the equipment here—except the commercial refrigerator—came from the dump or yard sales, “ she says with satisfaction, gesturing around the small cottage on the River Road that serves as the heart of her new enterprise. Assembling the ovens, tray racks and sundry utensils, along with learning how to get consistent results and getting her kitchen certified, took about a year. “I got my licenses at the end of April 2012. And it was my son, Dylan, who taught me all I know about making bagels and bread.”

It was, in fact, Dylan Fuller’s decision to move to Maine from Newburyport, Massachusetts, where he had been employed as an artisan baker, that gave McCoy the idea of starting up a bagel business.

“He came here to learn the craft of making furniture at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship in Rockport. I thought after he finished that year-long course he’d need a way to make a living and that Tenants Harbor could use a bagel shop.” When Dylan began getting commissions for furniture soon after graduating the program, McCoy decided she’d start up the business on her own. Her son continues to be her mentor. At the moment he is helping McCoy work for  consistency in making soft German pretzels.

McCoy calls The Bagel Shack “a community-supported bakery.”

“Most of my customer base were guinea pigs,” she laughs, “friends who sampled my firstexperiments.” Since then McCoy has developed an impressively wide and creative range of bagel varieties—old favorites such as onion, sesame seed, poppy seed and whole wheat, but also more exotic types such as mushroom truffle, jalapeno, asiago and chipotle. She also makes ciabatta (both plain and kalamata olive rosemary) and taralli, savory Italian cookies. Whenever possible, she uses organic ingredients—and every product is made individually by hand in a process that, she notes, “is very time, weight and temperature sensitive.”

Pick-up days are Wednesdays and Thursdays (orders placed by Monday 5pm). Some customers place a weekly standing order while others vary their requests. Some prepay, some barter. And special orders are now becoming more frequent. This year, too, McCoy’s bagels and breads will be available at Hedgerow’s seasonal market in Martinsville.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs McCoy’s business expands, that commercial kitchen mixer she snatched up from Larry’s last year seems a better and better investment.

(The Bagel Shack, 436 River Rd., Tenants Harbor, 372-1066,  —JW

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