Philly Style Bagels goes from pop-up to storefront

Something is brewing in Fishtown - and for once it isn’t coffee.

For months now, folks have been flocking to Pizzeria Beddia (115 E Girard Ave.) on Sunday mornings – but not for pizza. Instead, people from near and far line up for freshly baked Philly Style Bagels and on any given morning the shop can go through 500 of their product. They've offer your standard bagel options (poppy, everything, sesame, salt) and a variety of spreads (smoked salmon, veggie, jalapeño, avocado, scallion).

Now the two are venturing out from their semi-weekly pop-up at Pizzeria Beddia to their own brick and mortar shop in the heart of Fishtown.

While they will continue to bake at the pizza shop (Aug. 9, Aug. 16) they are aiming for a soft opening at their new space (1451 East Columbia) by the end of this month with a grand opening in the beginning of September.

We all have our own idea of what a great bagel should be. Most of us have a particular memory of the ideal bagel that we compare all other bagels to. And not surprisingly, they usually fall short. But we're different. We're not trying to replace the bagels of our youth... That's why we came up with our own style, inspired by the great city of Philadelphia. We're trying to make new memories, not overwrite them. You can put #PhillyStyleBagels on the map! Let us share our vision for a more perfect bagel. Help us get our feet off the ground - contribute to our Indiegogo to fund our oven, the link is in our profile!

A photo posted by Philly Style Bagels (@phillystylebagels) on Jun 10, 2015 at 9:28am PDT

Collin Shapiro and Jonathon Zilber are the 20-somethings behind the new buzzing bagel business. The two met while working at The Foodery in Northern Liberties and began experimenting with home culinary projects like brewing beer and curing meat and fish.

“Cured salmon was the main thing that started it,” Zilber told me at a coffee shop in Kensington. “We had some cured salmon and didn’t have anything to eat it with. We were like let’s just make some bagels really fast to go with this fish.”

He admits the first attempt wasn’t the best, but the bagels were “still pretty awesome.”

“It was inspiring to us. So we wanted to continue to do it,” said Shapiro.

The pair has now cultivated a new process with Philly’s name proudly stamped on it, differing from techniques made famous by New York City and Montreal.

“New York and Montreal are pretty much the only two cities that have bagel making styles,” Zilber explains. “In New York, they add a malt syrup. In Montreal, they add honey to it. They both have the same function of adding sugar to the water which helps give the bagels some color and a sweetness. It’s similar to brushing a pastry with sugar syrup. It helps get it crunchy and shiny. So it’s all those things - crunchiness, color, shine, and flavor.”

So what’s the standout ingredient? Beer.

come n get yer bagel on tomorrow. 9am. roll on over! ��by @danlidon

A photo posted by Philly Style Bagels (@phillystylebagels) on Mar 14, 2015 at 1:06pm PDT

When they hosted a bagel brunch with friends, the boys needed malt for their batch so they decided to substitute it with the beer they were drinking. It worked and the boys knew they were onto something.

“We now boil them in a combination of Yards IPA and water,” Shapiro, originally from Cheltenham, said. “Philadelphia has such amazing beer culture. Using beer in the boil is a homage to the great beer culture of our city and its shows where we came from.”

Why Yards? “Working at The Foodery and drinking all the beer, Yards was one of the breweries we always wanted to drink," Zilber said.

“In the back of my mind I always figured that I wanted to open up my own place,” said Zilber. “I expected it to be a coffee shop first. I like the idea of being able to do more than one thing. When you are working in a coffee shop you are focusing on coffee. But then bagels are a nice liaison to linking it with food. That’s a great canvas for everything else. It opens up the possibilities for what we can do.”

Their work at a local coffee shop Shot Tower helped guide the pair towards opening something that was different. “We had a good sense for the need of a bagel shop,” Zilber explained. “A shop that is doing it on a small scale throughout the day. Where you can go to a place where the bagel is fresh. Usually they are baked in a large wholesale bakery late at night or very early in the morning and they are redistributed to all the coffee shops. There really isn’t a small scale bagel shop doing it from scratch the old fashioned way.”

While the growth of their business has been rapid, Zilber is not worried. With the help of a successful crowdfunding campaign, they are on their way. “We are opening our shop a little bit sooner than we would have expected to. But it feels ready and right for us to go into our own space. It’s now or never.” 

Keep up with their journey by following Philly Style Bagels on Instagram.