During the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, it seemed like everyone was either baking or consuming their friend’s homemade baked goods. The difference with Niki Hetchkop, who began making bagels for fun during lockdown, is that the more requests she got for her bagels, the more she began to see a missing piece in the Atlanta bagel market that was ready to be filled.
That hole – pardon the pun – was New York-style bagels.
Hetchkop, the daughter of two Jewish New Yorkers, knows her bagels. But launching Beeline Bagels during the middle of a global pandemic was a challenge in and of itself.
Like everyone who got creative, she decided the best and most economical way to sell her product was via a moveable cart, which she usually parks at Inman Park, a suburb of Atlanta. (Her exact whereabouts are always posted on her social media.)
Beeline Bagels not only invokes the iconic taste of New York-style bagels, but it’s also an homage to the importance of community. “I knew when I started making bagels it had to be New York-style, using very simple ingredients for the dough, made from scratch, hand-rolled, then boiled and baked,” said Hetchkop. “I grew up eating New York’s doughy rounds from the time I was a kid visiting my grandparents in Queens. It’s important my bagels give you that same feel-good feeling.”
Beeline Bagel’s slogan also is a nod to Hetchkop’s Jewish upbringing and carries the kitchy tagline “Bagels and Schmear Without the Schlep.”
“Both of my grandparents spoke Yiddish growing up, and my friends and I still use Yiddish in our everyday conversations,” said Hetchkop. “Words like schmear and schlep in my brand also create fun conversation starters for those unfamiliar with the words.”
The community response has been amazing thus far, with locals enjoying the grab-and-go style of the cart. “People can buy a bagel and schmear and take it to walk around the neighborhood, a perfect Saturday morning activity,” said Hetchkop. “I also stick with the traditional flavors (think everything, plain, sesame, poppy, salt, and cinnamon raisin), which everyone seems to appreciate.”
She also carries fun (and standard) schmears such as plain, whipped, scallion, veggie, strawberry and honey smash. More flavors (and ideas), however, are coming. “I’m looking forward to my menu evolving with new requests from the community,” said Hetchkop. “My dad’s favorite is a black and white bagel, so I might have to add it eventually.”
Many people ask Hetchkop where she sees her business in the future, and although future carts or a brick-and-mortar shop sounds promising, her main goal right now is to continue to become “a successful and special part of the Atlanta community.” She also wants to continue to support her community by creating meaningful jobs for adults with disabilities, which is an homage to Jessica, her younger sister and best friend who has special needs.
Currently, Hetchkop’s team includes her husband David, who she considers to be her CSO (Chief Schmear Officer); her best friend, who runs a blog called Marley’s Menu and did all her Instagram photos; Marley’s husband Rob, who built the website; her friend Elliott of Elliott Strauss Design, who created the logo and helped design the cart and her camp friend Rachel White, who took pictures of the cart.
Said Hetchkop: “It’s a labor of love built by the community, for the community.”
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