Known by most people simply as "Bagel Boy," Brendan Dodd started his bagel delivery service while still a student at Loyola University. Since then, his business has expanded and Dodd now supplies 14 coffee shops with his bagels, including Mojo Coffee Roasters, The Bean Gallery, Sacred Grinds, Cafe Envie and more. Dodd spoke with Gambit about the bagel business.
How did you develop your business model for Bagel Boy?
Dodd: I graduated from Loyola University, and while I was there I worked at a local bagel shop (Humble Bagel) here in the city. While I was working there, I noticed at the end of the day, if they hadn't sold a lot of the bagels, they would just throw them away. I asked them if they cared if I took them home to give to my friends and they said they didn't mind. So it kind of became a thing where I would post on Facebook to see if anyone wanted any and I would bike bagels all over the city of New Orleans — just for fun, sort of as a way to get more exercise. I was biking maybe 30 to 40 miles a day delivering bagels. One day someone called me Bagel Boy, and the name just stuck. While I was working at the bagel shop and when I was delivering the bagels by bike, a lot of people would tell me that it was a cool idea and how they were upset that there weren't too many bagel options in the city. I've learned that New Orleans is filled with a lot of non-locals — there are a lot of people who moved here, like myself, and there just seemed like there was a real lack of bagel shops in the city. After that, I got the idea to start Bagel Boy as an actual business. Since then I've gotten into 14 coffee shops, and the last year and a half business has just been blowing up — way more than I could have ever anticipated.
How do your bagels compare to the gold standard of New York bagels?
D: I've never actually had a bagel from New York, but a lot of my customers are people that moved here from New York and told me they liked my bagels. I appreciate everyone's opinion, but I feel like a New Yorker's opinion on bagels is what matters the most, so that was awesome.
I worked at [Humble Bagel] for about seven months, and there was a period when I worked there where I rolled bagels. I did it enough so that when I started my own business I knew more or less how to do it. There was about a three-month period where I was just messing around with ingredients, researching websites and trying to figure out what other people had done. There was a lot of trial and error involved in perfecting the recipe I use now. I've had some people ask me if I would use a machine, but I think there is an art to the hand-rolled bagel.
What does your normal workday look like now?
D: I work every day and I do this full time. I started working out of a commissary kitchen and since July (2017), I wake up at around 1 a.m. and I get there around 2 (a.m.). I bake the bagels fresh every day. Besides the coffee shops, customers can order the bagels through the website for next-day delivery. On average, I bake between 250 and 300 bagels a day now. It's a lot. It was a little rough to start, but now I have two employees and I just try to take naps when I get the chance. I don't really bike the bagels around anymore. I do it mostly by car now.