How I Opened Quito’s First Bagel Shop

The Peace Corps advertises itself as the “toughest job you’ll ever love.” It’s true—I loved that experience enough to extend my two-year commitment for a third…but I never imagined just where that experience would lead me when I got off the plane in Quito, Ecuador way back in August 1982.

Fast forward 13 years and you would find me opening my own bagel business. What had started out as an idea batted around among Peace Corps colleagues became reality on November 12, 1995. I had gone from being a civil engineer—who didn’t even know a bagel was boiled—to the proud owner of Quito‘s first bagel shop.

Pre-internet, getting and testing recipes was a challenge. A couple of years of trial and error had resulted in more than one instance of producing a batch of hockey pucks. Finally, with my long suffering Peace Corps buddies and family as guinea pigs, I had something that was not only edible, it was good—or so they told me…!

I started making bagels at the house…receiving orders from the international high schools and other friends, and baking the batch the next morning. I would then ride on my bicycle, laden with bagels, to deliver to the schools.

I trained our housekeeper to make the bagels, and soon our weekday mornings were occupied by bagel-making. I remember the first order of twelve dozen bagels taking us all day to make, as we madly boiled and baked, in and on the stove in our kitchen. Shortly thereafter, I purchased a small commercial oven that serves us still today.

When I opened the storefront, I stole our housekeeper away to work with me there—much to the chagrin of Mariana, my lovely Ecuadorian wife! With only two employees, those first days were hectic. I turned the bagel-making over to the employees, but there was still shopping, waiting on the public, bookkeeping, and the ever-present permits to be sorted.

I remember the first time a group of 20 or so World Teach Volunteers came in. It took more than an hour to take care of them.

We’ve come a long way since then. We now have nine employees, and our first franchise will be celebrating its second anniversary soon. We produce 12 dozen bagels before 7 a.m. And while large groups are still unusual, a busload of 40 people came in recently and we had them taken care of in no time.

It’s not all work though. On two or three separate occasions we have found someone we trust to stand in for us and have run off to other parts of the world to pursue adventures.

Many of our clients became friends, and many of our friends became clients. We spend a lot of time at the store, but Friday afternoon card games are part of that time.

Likewise, although Saturday and Sunday brunch are our busiest times, we often join our friends/clients for a cup of coffee and catch up on the week’s events with them.

Like any business, there have been headaches, but Mister Bagel has truly become a source of joy in our lives.

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