Emily Winston is opening up the first Peninsula location of her popular bagel shop Boichik Bagels in Palo Alto’s Town & Country Village. Photo courtesy Emily Winston.
In a region filled with tech unicorns and initial public offerings, Silicon Valley’s most sought-after investment opportunity might come topped with sesame seeds and cream cheese.
Boichik Bagels founder Emily Winston started baking bagels in her home 10 years ago, and eventually, her house turned into a destination for East Coast transplants and anyone craving the taste of a New York bagel. When Winston opened her first storefront in Berkeley back in 2019, she cobbled together personal loans from members of her email list along with friends and family.
Today, Winston is eyeing a bagel plant and wholesale business, not just a single store, and community members are shelling out thousands of dollars in order to support the construction of her bagel empire. Kicked off by a wave of bakers and even a New York Times feature, the Bay Area's "bagel boom" has only intensified in 2022.
The Foodist wrote about Boichik Bagels in January, when Winston first announced a West Berkeley bagel plant and upcoming retail location in Palo Alto's Town & Country Village. She's now raising capital from local residents through two different mechanisms: "Bagel Bucks," gift cards offered at a discounted price ("bagel futures," in Winston's words), and a $1 million bond offering conducted on SMBX, a crowdfunding site that pays interest to backers and has hosted campaigns from other Bay Area food businesses, including Poppy Bagels and Pyro's Pastrami. Bagel Bucks can be purchased in increments of up to $3,500, and the SMBX campaign has already raised over $200,000 after beginning on June 23.
"There's extra warm and fuzzies because I'll go and talk to banks … they just care about the numbers,” says Winston about seeing investments pile in from loyal customers. Relying on community support also means that Winston can maintain control of her small business, which she's set on an ambitious path.
Most of the funds from the Bagel Bucks and bond offering will support the construction of Boichik's West Berkeley bagel plant, an approximately $5 million project that will produce the raw dough for each retail store (the dough will then be boiled and baked at each location) and bake and freeze bagels intended for wholesale (the frozen bagels are already available at limited locations including Bianchini's Market and Piazza's Fine Foods.) According to Winston, producing the dough is a technical endeavor that lends itself well to automation.
About half a million dollars will be spent on refrigeration, as Winston believes that if bagels can't be enjoyed fresh, they are at their best frozen and reheated. That's why she's selling frozen bagels at grocery stores. "I can't stand bagels sitting in plastic bags at room temperature. It makes me twitch," she says.
A rendering of the West Berkeley bagel plant, which will be open to the public. Photo courtesy Emily Winston.
The factory won’t just serve as an industrial facility, as it will also serve bagels onsite. Winston hopes that guests will be enthralled by the automated assembly line that will form up to 12,000 bagels an hour and resemble the open kitchens at Krispy Kreme.
Winston started out by baking just a few bagels each day, and she appreciates the overwhelming support that has allowed her business to grow. "It definitely is daunting, but it just feels like everything has fallen into place." Winston says.
Regarding the Town & Country location, Winston is now aiming for a September opening due to permitting delays.
Boichik Bagels (opening in September), 855 El Camino Real, Suite 115, Palo Alto; Instagram: @boichikbagels.
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