STALLINGS — These days, you can get pretty much anything delivered to your doorstep, so why not fresh, hand-rolled artisan bagels?
That’s what Kevin Priest (KP) thought when he started BagelGram NC at the beginning of the pandemic last year. The online, no-contact delivery service brings bagels like chocolate chip, everything and asiago cheese right to your door. You’ll know they’ve arrived when the doorbell rings and you hear “BagelGram!”
“It’s kind of a play on the telegram and the whole delivery aspect of the business,” KP said.
Originally from Boca Raton, Florida, KP has been studying culinary arts since when he was 14 years old. By 16, he was working as a full-time line cook while attending culinary school and finishing high school. After college, he worked with his mom in the catering business until the economic recession of 2008 forced them to close. KP said he never lost his passion and vowed to one day throw his hat in the ring again.
KP and his family moved to Stallings in 2019 with the plan to open a bagelry somewhere in the area. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and KP was laid off from his real estate job, he decided to take the first step in following that dream.
“I couldn’t sit around being bored all the time, so I thought, ‘Why not offer bagels to people in the neighborhood?’ and they told their friends and it grew from there,” KP said.
So, how does BagelGram NC work?
First, customers select a date to receive their delivery. KP delivers bagels to homes in Matthews, Stallings, Indian Trail, Waxhaw, Weddington, Mint Hill, Monroe, Lake Park, Hemby Bridge, Unionville and Lancaster, S.C. on Wednesday and Saturday mornings. Delivery fees are based on distance from Stallings Municipal Park.
Residents outside the main delivery area can arrange to meet at one of BagelGram NC’s BagelDrop locations along the delivery route. A BagelDrop is a special delivery to an individual neighborhood, organized by the residents who live there.
After picking a date, customers choose how many bagels of each flavor to add to their cart (eight minimum). Then, they checkout and wait for their BagelGram to arrive.
KP started the business one year ago with a classic New York City-style bagel recipe and then tweaked it to be as close as possible to the bagels he grew up with in South Florida (which was a NYC-style bagel). KP now advertises 19 different flavors a week, but he has about 25 up his sleeve.
Some of the more unique flavors are pizza (sun-dried tomato bagel covered in mozzarella cheese and baked twice), jalapeño cheddar and everything with asiago cheese. The most popular are everything, plain and chocolate chip.
“Every week, we sell out of chocolate chip,” KP said. “We can’t make enough of those.”
There’s also a featured “bagel of the month” flavor. April is cranberry dark chocolate.
KP hand rolls all of the bagels the night before delivering and places them in a refrigerator to continue to slowly ferment. In the morning, he heads to one of BagelGram NC’s ghost kitchens in Charlotte to boil and bake the bagels.
They cool for 30 minutes before they’re packaged and dropped at customers’ doorstep for a no-contact delivery. KP said this is so they don’t get too mushy and soft.
Bagels from BagelGram NC are vegan and contain no fillers or preservatives, which sets them apart from most found at the grocery store. For that reason, KP suggests eating his bagels within the first few days of delivery or freezing them immediately.
“Any bagels you see in any store are going to have something in them to give them a longer shelf life,” KP said. “They’re also not hand rolled like mine. They’re squeezed out of a machine.”
“The freshest dough to me is the best,” he added. “When that bagel comes out of the oven, you can smell it and you can taste it. It makes a huge difference.”
KP said the taste of the bagels is what keeps customers coming back to BagelGram NC, but social media and word-of-mouth have been crucial in helping the business grow.
“All I have to do is find one person who loves bagels and they say, ‘Sure, I’ll tell all my neighbors’ and the next day we’re delivering bagels to that neighborhood,” he said.
Despite the popularity of delivery, KP is still holding onto his dream of one day opening a brick-and-mortar shop. Maybe even as soon as next year if he can find the right location.
“BagelGram NC has done better than we ever expected,” KP said. “People won’t let me stop, so I have to keep going.”
“We’re very appreciative of all the thank yous and smiles and reviews that people have given us over the past year,” he added.