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Published Friday, February 5, 2016

New York Style Bagels Hit the Farms

By Todd Feinburg

There can never be too many locations to grab a well-made bagel, so who could be unhappy about one nestled in a hundred-year-old train station a few feet from the commuter rail tracks in Beverly Farms?

Open for about two months now, Boston Bagel Company is serving a solid selection of bagels and toppings, coffee and coffee drinks, and a warm neighborhood feeling in an inviting space that seats about 30. The location was renovated last fall with respect for the age and “bones” of the building, leading to a warm and cozy New England ambience where you can enjoy the natural wood surfaces, the gas burning fireplace and conversation with neighbors. They’ll also be serving yogurt when the warm weather returns (in theory) in April.

Boston Bagel is the second unit of a new operation begun in South Boston a couple of years ago. When two local entrepreneurs, Thomas Smith and Brookes Townsend, wanted to open a café, they reached out to Tom’s friends, Adam Sandler and Bryan Gajewski, the Boston Bagel founders, who were working on their first store. “Brookes and I approached them about the idea of opening in Beverly Farms, and we actually started to develop the partnership even before they opened in Boston in 2013,” said Smith.

Smith said that he and Townsend did lots of research when they decided they wanted to open a bagel shop, touring New England on a grand tasting as they contemplated bringing a great New York-style bagel, at first, to Los Angeles. Then, their lives moved back to the Boston area. “Ultimately, it was quality that attracted us to partner with Boston Bagel. Their product was better and more consistent than the product that we’d experienced doing our research.”

The old railroad station they’re in was previously occupied by Townsend Oil, owned by Brookes’ family, as well as a real estate company, so when those businesses relocated, it created a retail opportunity that the young men, who became friends in high school, were eager to seize.

Their bagel is a frozen New York-style product that is baked in the store. This approach has some advantages over ‘from scratch’ operations, as bagels are best when they haven’t been sitting on the shelves for too long. Pulling them from the freezer and cooking them off as needed means there’s always fresh product, and it’s very consistent. “We pride ourselves on baking everything fresh daily and throughout the day,” said Smith.

In addition, making true New York-style bagels is a chore, not one that smaller suburban operations necessarily have the resources to tackle. Having a simple production process using frozen product allows operators like Tom and Brookes to focus on the general challenges of running a restaurant. Smith has trouble picking out the most popular breakfast item. “People love our sausage, egg and cheese sandwich,” he said. “I think they love it because it’s not frozen, we make up fresh scrambled eggs every morning.” But, he added, “The nova sandwich is right there with it.”

The Turkey Avocado Club is a big seller at lunch, explained Smith. “And for brewed coffees, the White Chocolate Chip is very popular.”

Smith said that he and Townsend expected to have the high level of business they’re experiencing in the morning, but hadn’t anticipated their midday crowds. “We knew people would sit on their laptops enjoying the coffee and free wi-fi, but we didn’t think that would last all day. Our success at lunch has been a great surprise. People love the atmosphere, and we’re pretty busy right up until three o’clock.”

The partners expect it to get even busier when they start serving frozen yogurt and add outside seating for the warm weather. It is this unique product mix and environment in the delightful village of Beverly Farms that Smith sees as creating their drawing power. “We already have regular customers driving in on the weekend from Hamilton, Wenham, Gloucester and Ipswich – even coming from as far away as Rowley.”

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