Montreal could soon have a new player on the wood-fired bagel scene, as Ottawa favourite Kettleman’s Bagel Co. (or just “Kettleman’s” to many) is eyeing an expansion to the city.
Last week, the Ottawa Business Journal reported that the capital’s go-to place for Montreal-style bagels is planning major expansions with the help of investment money from a private growth equity firm. That story highlighted Toronto as a destination for the bakery’s expansions, but Kettleman’s founder Craig Buckley has confirmed to Eater that he’s likely to open up storefronts in Montreal.
Buckley says he’s in talks to take over an existing bagel-maker in Montreal, which would then give Kettleman’s the infrastructure to set up. Since those buy-out talks are ongoing, Buckley declined to name the company.
The suggestion that someone would dare take on Montreal’s big bagel establishments (Fairmount and St-Viateur) might leave some aghast, but it’s worth noting a few things about Kettleman’s: while it emulates the long-standing Montreal institutions in that it’s 24 hours, Kettleman’s is a much bigger 24-hour operation. It’s not just a bakery with a fridge of Philadelphia cream cheese tubs — it has a substantial sandwich menu, featuring items like a breakfast sandwich, chopped liver, lox special, and BLT. It also has a range of house cream cheese options, and unlike the Montreal bakeries, will actually apply the cream cheese to the bagel.
In comparison, Fairmount has kept a single bare-bones bakery set-up, opting to distribute its bagels through wholesale channels (and those wholesale bagels that make it to grocery stores are rarely as fresh as at a bakery). Meanwhile, St-Viateur does have three café locations, but they function more as sit-down spots for breakfast and lunch.
Plus, Buckley says he’s done his research and that there’s probably space for him here — while no locations have been set yet, he hints at the possibility of Kettleman’s going into certain suburban markets.
“I think the Montreal market is great, Montreal has seen the largest retail increase in Canada … the downtown core is having some issues just with the construction and traffic and I find that people that live in the West Island are staying in the West Island…but the suburbs tend to have those box stores, like McDonald’s.”
It should also be noted that other bagel bakeries have managed to build up sustainable businesses in the city — there’s Real Bagel on Decarie, and Bagel St-Lo in Verdun (a key part of their strategies has probably been setting up in areas without much competition.
And as for the question of whether it might seem odd to “import” Montreal bagels from Ottawa? That’s not quite the case — Buckley is originally from Montreal, and when asked, he notes that those bagels weren’t quite born here.
“People keeping saying ‘St-Viateur bagels’…the recipe comes from Poland and Eastern Europe.”
Kettleman’s has been doing wood-fired bagels in Ottawa since 1993 — its flagship store on Bank Street in the Glebe neighbourhood (just south of downtown) has become somewhat of an institution, doing bagels, coffee, sandwiches, and more, 24 hours a day. In recent years the company added two new locations on the east and west sides of the capital, both of which are also open 24/7.