Iconic New York bagels proving a popular NI treat

Inspired by the flavours and colours of New York city, Steven Orr and partner Kirsty Winter decided to set up start a small bakery that’s bringing the ‘Big Apple’s’ iconic bagels to Belfast.

By Sam Butler
Saturday, 11th December 2021, 11:07 am
Updated Saturday, 11th December 2021, 11:12 am

Bodega Bagels, the unique enterprise they started in the kitchen of the home they share on Ladas Drive, Castlereagh, is modelled on New York’s famed bodegas found selling virtually everything on the city’s street corners.

Steven and Kirsty, who plan to marry next year, are now selling a variety of freshly baked bagels with cream fillings in East Belfast and are even attracting bagel lovers from New York. The bagels are another outcome of the coronavirus lockdown which encouraged Steven and Kirsty to look at other business opportunities especially in food, an area both enjoy.

“We wanted to try something new and quite different from our chosen careers,” Steven, who is originally from Ballymena, explains. “I work as an IT delivery manager and Kirsty, who comes from Armagh, is in marketing. We both love cooking and eating out, and I have been impressed by the growth in artisan food enterprises here especially over the past five years. We saw a lot of friends baking banana bread, cakes and other foods during lockdown,” he continues.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Steven Orr and Kirsty Winter of Bodega Bagels making delicious New York snacks in Belfast

They looked around to see what they could be make here. Steven remembered the bagels he had loved in New York a couple of years ago. “This led us to start looking around to see if home baked bagels were readily available in Belfast. He saw a gap in the market.
“We decided then to explore bagels and had, of course, to find out the best way to make exceptional snacks at home,” he continues. “We quickly realised that there isn’t a separate bagel shop here and those we found in some stores were brought here from abroad. 
“Once we spotted an opportunity in food we just decided to go for it and to set up a small bakery to make and sell them. Our next step was to find out how they are made in New York,” he says.

They turned to the internet and social media sites like Facebook, Reddit and Instagram for help. The search brought fast responses from experts and established and successful bagel shops in New York. “We’ve learned that what makes proper bagels different from the ones you get in some supermarket is that you boil them before the oven,” he adds.
Their quest for recipes brought an enthusiastic response from Scott Rossillo, the owner of the world-famous Bagel Store in New York’s Brooklyn district. Rossillo, the famed inventor of the rainbow bagel, provided initial advice and has maintained contact.

Initial samples for tasting by friends were developed from recipes from the experts. They proved popular. The next step was to come up with an appealing brand identity for the new business, a process shaped by Kirsty from her marketing background.

“Contacts told us of the key role played by bodegas in selling bagels. We also remembered the small grocery stores during our visit to the city and decided that Bodega Bagels would be a great identity for us,” Steven explains.

The new Bodega bagels were initially launched on social media earlier in the year. An online ordering system established that enables customers to order them for collection at weekends. Driven by word of mouth around East Belfast and social media mentions, sales have taken off faster than they had originally expected.

“We had planned to take things slow but have now stepped up production to meet the amazing demand. Our plan now is just to go full steam with the business because the support has been there and people have been coming back time and again to buy. We’ve also had a lot of Americans, including some from New York city, ordering from us as well and they’ve come back and told us there’s nowhere else to taste proper bagels,” Steven adds. “It’s very gratifying and encouraging to hear that New Yorkers love our bagels.”

An approach from Local Box NI in Bloomfield Road, which had heard of the bagels, led to Steven and Kirsty setting up a pop-up store there. It proved to be hugely successful, resulting in lengthy queues. Another approach led to a pop-up shop in the Banana Block at the Portview Trade centre on the lower Newtownards Road… and to even lengthier queues at weekends.

As well as a successful range of authentic New York bagels, Bodega Bagels stocks cream cheese spreads - schmears - for even greater taste.

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

In order for us to continue to provide high quality and trusted local news on this free-to-read site, I am asking you to also please purchase a copy of our newspaper whenever you are able to do so.

Our journalists are highly trained and our content is independently regulated by IPSO to some of the most rigorous standards in the world. But being your eyes and ears comes at a price. So we need your support more than ever to buy our newspapers during this crisis.

With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our local valued advertisers - and consequently the advertising that we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you helping us to provide you with news and information by buying a copy of our newspaper when you can safely.

You can also enjoy unlimited access to the best news from across Northern Ireland and the UK by subscribing to newsletter.co.uk

With a digital subscription, you can read more than five articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit https://www.newsletter.co.uk/subscriptions now to sign up.

Thank you