Believe in Bagels
Bagels are a notorious food item that many American towns and cities like to claim they are known for. Whether you prefer your bagel smeared thick with cream cheese or topped with loxs, the process behind creating a delicious bagel is not as simple as you might think. Alumnus Roan Hartzog `04 gives us a deep dive into his bagels and his business.
With over 15 years of baking experience, Roan is no rookie to the baking world. He grew up in Florida where he would eat a bagel for breakfast on his way to school. Bagels were a part of his everyday routine. Later on, he found himself visiting friends in New York City where he became immersed in a culture of bagels. There, too, bagels were a part of everyone’s daily routine. To New Yorkers, having a daily bagel from a no-frills bagel shop is like a Seattleite having their morning cup of freshly roasted, sustainably-sourced coffee.
After Roan’s father accepted a new job and moved his family to Seattle in 2001, Roan began attending Seattle Academy and found himself focusing on arts and immersing himself in independent studies. While at SAAS, Roan was emboldened to be his unique self. “SAAS is so good about encouraging independence and self-sufficiency...I was able to create a lot of my own classes and independent studies. I think learning to do something on your own is a great tool for getting a business up and running and SAAS definitely helps foster that in their students,” reflects Roan. This is a confidence he carried with him and after spending a few years at the Western Washington University, he ultimately decided that college wasn’t the best fit. Once his decision was made, he walked from his apartment to the nearest bakery and offered to work for free—with the concession, that is, that they would teach him how to make bread. It was his luck that Roan landed an unpaid position at Boulangerie Nantaise and one month later, found himself in a paid position.
In 2018, Roan began making bagels on the side of his full-time job as a baker. For nearly a year, he worked and reworked his own original bagel recipe until he felt he had perfected it. One thing led to another and Mt. Bagel was founded! “It just gradually picked up through word of mouth and I ramped up production a little bit at a time until I eventually swapped out all my bread shifts for bagel shifts!” exclaims Roan.
Mt. Bagel has maintained successful delivery sales since 2019 (not an easy feat in light of this past year’s events). And although Mt. Bagel doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar shop, they recently hosted their very first pop-up event to get a little taste of the retail experience. A few days prior, Roan and his bagel buddy rallied together to make 1,000 bagels in total, which is a significantly heavier load than what they typically prepare. After 4 hours, a massive line, and a lot of happy customers, Mt. Bagel had sold out their first ever pop-up event.
Roan is optimistic that his business will continue to succeed. Mt. Bagel’s delivery service routinely sells out of their bagels within an hour (1 hour!) and he’s keeping his fingers crossed that a delivery van with a glowing goat on it is in his future. Roan adds that “growth isn’t linear. I’ve put lots of hours into things that don’t pan out. Lots of time and energy that seems like it goes nowhere, but if you look at the big picture, it all lends itself to your body of knowledge and experience.”
We are confident that there is a bright future ahead for Mt. Bagel, but don’t forget to support Roan and his team along with other local SAAS businesses. Check out their website or Instagram to place an order for a fresh dozen!