What can be better than a pop-up bagel shop?
Two of them.
Last week, “06880” featured Sugar & Olives’ Saturday morning pick-up service. Today we highlight a delicious Sunday option, courtesy of Adam Goldberg.
Bagels represent the third career for the longtime Westporter. In 2012, after years in structured finance, he bought the rights to flood mitigation company Aquafence.
He still operates it. But the pandemic hit that industry hard, like so many others.
With time on his hands — and a lifelong love of cooking and entertaining — he began baking. After a year and a half on the keto diet (and a mild case of COVID), Goldberg was ready for some lockdown carbs.
He made sourdoughs, pizzas and pastas.
Then came bagels.
Using his own recipe, Goldberg invited friends to stop by. He’d send out a text at 6 a.m.: “I’m baking today. Stop by.”
This was a great way to see them — if only to hand them his bagels through a backyard pick-up window, while chatting for a minute or two.
He had no set schedule. That didn’t matter, because every day blended into every other one.
Word spread. His text chain grew. Now Goldberg was getting requests for bagels from “tertiary friends.”
November 1 was his birthday. In normal years, he throws a party. This time, he teamed with Filling in the Blanks, the Norwalk non-profit that provides weekend meals to needy children. His bagel sale raised around $1,000.
That drew more attention. Soon, 1200 people were requesting bagels. Most were strangers.
Help came when Rachel Golan reached out. The wife of Don Memo owner Bill Taibe offered their kitchen on a Sunday morning.
Goldberg was not sure if that would work. “Bagels are sensitive,” he notes. “I didn’t know if the oven or the process would be right.”
In early December, he took a chance. He baked 300 bagels.
All were quickly gobbled up.
For his second Sunday, Goldberg devised an advance online ordering system. He cut that off at 500 bagels.
His third and fourth efforts were capped at 1,000 each. Both sold out — within minutes.
He, his wife and local kids he hired hand-delivered bagels over the holidays. They too sold out in seconds.
This past Wednesday, it took just 82 seconds for all bagels to be spoken for. Another 155 names joined the wait list.
“I never set out to sell,” Goldberg says. “But people keep knocking. I’ve been in the flood business for all these years. I never had 500 people on my mailing list.”
He no longer works alone. Golan helps bake; so do a doctor, fashion executive and hedge fund woman.
“It’s 6:30 in the morning. The radio is on. I’m with good friends, rolling bagels. There’s no place I’d rather be,” Goldberg says.
Recently, he got a state license. It allows him to cook non-perishable items at home, for sale.
Goldberg’s goods have gained notice — and not just from normal, run-of-the-mill bagel lovers.
CTbites recently included Pop Up Bagels on its “Top Eats for 2020” — by 2 separate food writers. Goldberg was listed along with some of the top restaurants (and chefs) in the state.
The past months have taught the bagel baker some important lessons. For example: “It’s exciting to grow a business. It’s always tricky to scale something done at home. But if you make a great product, there’s a market for it.”
That market includes many people with “childhood memories of eating great bagels,” Goldberg says. Seemingly all grew up in the tri-state area.
Those memories are strong. When he ran an online contest (the prize: a dozen bagels) asking for recollections, the nearly 100 responses were “off the charts. People remembered smells, sights, everything. There’s a lot of nostalgia for bagels.”
Each Sunday, he gets feedback.
“Thanks for letting me buy your bagels,” one customer wrote. “I feel like I won the lottery.”
“This Long Island girl finally feels at home here,” another said.
Such comments are gratifying. They could turn a bagel maker’s head. But Goldberg is not biting. He tells people who urge him to expand: “We’re taking our time. We want to be sure to hit it right.”
He pauses. “It’s a hobby gone wild.’
(Goldberg typically bakes salted poppy, sesame, Maldon salt, cinnamon raisin, everything and plain bagels; occasionally he adds honey whole wheat. Don Memo offers an artisan schmear, when you pick up your bagels. To be notified of upcoming sales, follow popupbagels on Instagram or click here.)