Monday, April 25, 2005

Broadway Bagels Enterprise Focus

Irish Examiner
By Trish Dromey

Dungarvan based couple Des and Rosie Sheehan have set up the country's first dedicated bagel factory and the product is beginning to catch on in a big way, with high hopes for the companies future.

Bringing authentic New York style bagels to Ireland has become something of a mission for Dungarvan-based couple Des and Rosie Sheehan. They have set up the country's first dedicated bagel factory; built up a wholesale business and have launched a retail product at the IFEX show in Dublin. The bagel is beginning to catch on in a big way, but one of the difficulties for the Broadway Bagels company is that many people here don't know how a bagel should taste or how it should be treated.

"Some people here think it's just a hard round bread roll with a hole in the middle but this is not a Bagel. They should be soft and dense and should be eaten within a short time of being baked - not left for hours in a basket to get hard," explains Rosie, who is a native New Yorker. A Dubliner, who went to the States in the '80s in search of work, Des met and married Rosie in New York in the late '90s. In 2000 the couple decided that Ireland was a better place to bring up their children, so they moved the family to Dungarvan.

Rosie's background was in insurance while Des had run his own construction company. "We hadn't decided what we would do in Ireland but we came up with the idea for a bagel company when we found we couldn't get authentic New York-style bagels here," says Rosie. Neither of them had any experience in the food industry or in running a business but they decided to give it a go.

Those who don't know anything about bagels might assume they are easy to make but, according to Rosie, this is anything but the case. "Making a bagel is a bit like a science. You use a mixture of flour, salt, sugar, yeast and water if you get the quantities of any of these wrong it won't work.

In the US where bagels are taken very seriously - bagel recipes are closely guarded secrets and bakeries who make them don't give them away. So when Rosie and Des set out to create an authentic bagel they had their work cut out for them. "We binned thousands of bagels before we got it right. We got, advice from a Jewish bakery in New York - who gave us advice but wouldn't give us his formula - in the US bagel formulas are considered sacred," says Rosie.

After three months they had produced a bagel they were happy with and set up a bagel bar in Dungarvan. While bagel bars are spreading fast around the country this wasn't the case in 2001 and Dungarvan may not have been quite ready for one. At the end of 2002 when the couple's third. child was on the way - they decided to close this and move into the wholesale business, selling frozen bagels to the food service industry. Rosie packed up some samples and set off to Dublin to show them to coffee shops and restaurants.

It went very well. They got a distributor and the business began to grow. "It was a struggle for a few years and it wasn't till we got a contract to supply a supermarket chain in early 2004 - that I knew it was going to work", said Rosie

"We are the only company in the country making authentic New York-style bagels. They are made with natural ingredients, without additives and preservatives of any kind and are blast frozen within an hour of cooling - so that they are soft like a bagel should be - when defrosted," says Rosie, adding that she has high hopes for the firm's future. Broadway Bagels is based at a 2,500 sq ft factory in the Dungarvan Business Park, where it employs five full-time staff and one part-time one. Although nine flavours of Bagel are being served to the food service industry -Broadway Bagels is testing the retail market with its two most popular ones - Poppy and The Works (poppy, sesame, onion and garlic).

The company's retail packs of frozen pre-sliced bagels will be going nationwide next month in some of the smaller supermarket chain"