The heirs of two families in the coffee and baking industry are giving new life to Seattle Bagel Bakery in Tukwila.
Married couple AJ and Monica Ghambari took over the company from former owner Allan Thorne in October 2010 and opened up a retail shop at their operations warehouse in Tukwila in February of this year.
AJ is the son of Cherry Street Coffee House owner Ali Ghambari and Monica’s grandparents owned a Mexican bakery in Eastern Washington.
Seattle Bagel Bakery has been around since 1986, when Thorne developed a following for the kettle-boiled bagels from his original shop in Seattle and later through sales to Cherry Street Coffee House.
AJ remembers growing up with the bagels in his dad’s stores.
Even with the bagels’ popularity over the years, the local brand identity didn’t resonate with many people, Ghambari said.
“So when we took over the business that was something we addressed right away, with building an identity, a brand and a community around us,” he said.
“It’s been great and a lot of that comes from doing farmers markets and getting involved in a lot of non-profits and run/walks.”
Seattle Bagel Bakery now has recognizable labels and packaging that has helped them get on store shelves.
The company has recently developed a whole retail line of products from four-packs on grocery shelves to specialty cream cheeses.
Seattle Bagel Bakery also launched its version of bagel chips to utilize some of their overbake or returns from grocery stores.
The company prides itself on its “old-school” process of kettle-boiling the bagels instead of using a steam-injected technique.
The kettle-boiling process is very labor intensive and requires a lot of work, rather than using steam ovens, which is kind of a short cut, AJ said.
Their production facility in Tukwila is busy every single day, seven days a week, boiling and baking the bagels.
They have a family atmosphere among their 20-something employees and AJ and Monica were born and raised in the Northwest.
Both are University of Washington Business School graduates and started their careers working at larger firms.
Their heart and soul really is in a family business, a smaller business and entrepreneurship, AJ said.
When AJ and Monica took over the business, AJ said it was pretty much like a rescue operation with Thorne close to filing for bankruptcy.
“So 20 people would have lost their jobs, the banks would have been out their investment and the landlord would have a vacant space,” he said.
AJ saw the potential in making the company more recognizable to local consumers and jumped at the chance to see what he and Monica could do with the company.
“I grew up on these bagels so I didn’t want to see them go anywhere,” said AJ.
The Recipe: Savory Seedy Bagel Chips
– 4 hard or stale bagels
– 2 tablespoons poppy seeds
– 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
– 1 to 2 tablespoons of sea salt or table salt
– 1 to 2 tablespoons of minced or crushed garlic (optional)
– 1/3 cup olive oil (or favorite infused olive oils)
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Cut bagels into thin chips slices and place them in a large mixing bowl.
3. Add the poppy and sesame seeds.
4. Add the 1 to 2 tablespoons of sea salt depending on your salt preference.
5. If you’re a fan of garlic add the 1 to 2 tablespoons of minced or crushed garlic to the bowl.
6. Drizzle the olive oil over the chips and dry ingredients.
7. Toss everything together until the chips are evenly coated.
8. Spread the coated chips flat and evenly on an oven pan or cookie sheet.
9. Place in the oven and toast, to your preference, approximately 10 to 15 minutes.
A clever use
Here is a clever use of hard or stale bagels shared by Seattle Bagel Bakery owner AJ Ghambari.
“Bagel chips make a great snack by themselves, but also pair well with a hummus, cream cheese or sour cream based dip,” he said. “They are an excellent soup topper and a wonderful crouton substitute in your salads.”