Stores With Stories: The Bagel Jar

By Nancy J. Parisi

Published on

The married masterminds behind The Bagel Jar – John and Morgan Popple – decided to make making bagels their side hustle after moving to Buffalo. Missing thee bagels they’d left behind in Cleveland (Morgan’s hometown, and where they’d met in college), they dove headfirst into shaping, baking – and then selling – their perfect and in-demand creations.

“We wanted a name that we could use along all platforms,” says Morgan, “something unique. We wanted bagel in the title and then we were looking around our kitchen at home for inspiration and saw a cookie jar – that stuck.” “And then we found out that the domain name was available,” says John, who grew up in Eden.

“We lived in Cleveland Heights and there was a coffee shop down the street with great bagels. We moved here and there weren’t any bagel places in the Southtowns: there were a couple places in the Northtowns, but nothing near us so we started making them out of our house,” Morgan says, “We are super-interested in entrepreneurship and we both have full-time jobs as a teacher and an architect so this is on the side.”

The two share the details of The Bagel Jar beginnings: baking in their home kitchen before merrily selling out their initial batch of 100 bagels at the farmer’s market in Hamburg, where they now live. The couple describes the market as a perfect opportunity to learn about business, noting that the only class they took together at college — at Kent State — was Intro to Entrepreneurship.

The couple reports a steady pre-bagel evolution of mastering different techniques in their home kitchen, first making homemade pizzas in their wood-fired Ooni oven. “Then we made bread for a little bit, and then we made bagels and we said, ‘these are really good.'” Inspired, they plunged into making bagels for sale. Their 100 bagels would sell out in two hours. “August 8, 2020 was the date that we sold our first bagel,” says Morgan. They now sell 700 a day.

Many first-time customers approach their counter asking if The Bagel Jar wares are boiled or steamed and are elated when they hear that they are boiled — the old-fashioned and more painstaking way. Their bagels are also bit larger than typical bagels and their signature touch is generous flavorings on top and bottom, done by tossing each bagel with seeds and/or herbs.

After a short stint at the Broadway Market, The Bagel Jar is now based at Public Espresso + Coffee on Seneca Street in South Buffalo. Their tasty baking is also sold at Public downtown at Hotel Lafayette as well as farmers markets and other pop-ops around the area.

A typical morning for John and Morgan means awakening at 3:30 a.m. to start baking at Public at 4 a.m., finishing by 7 a.m. and heading to their day jobs. They alternate baking days: John does Tuesday and Thursday, Morgan does Wednesday and Friday – and both bake and man the bagel sales on weekends. 

“Public is our brick and mortar for now,” says John. “It’s been the perfect way to transition,” says Morgan, “to see what it takes to actually open a physical, permanent space and to learn more about operations.” “It gives us a place to ramp up,” says John, “a place to build up slowly.”

The Bagel Jar at Public Espresso at Shea’s Seneca / 2178 Seneca Street, Buffalo / / Facebook / Instagram

Nancy J. Parisi headshot

Nancy J. Parisi

Nancy is a social documentation photographer based in Buffalo, NY.