In This Episode
Winston-Salem: the city of arts, innovation, and made-to-order bagels! We chatted with Marc Singer and Amy Singer Douglass, siblings and two of the three current owners of Bagel Station, which first opened its doors on Oakwood in 1990. Taking over the business in 2016, Amy describes themselves as “stewards” of the business, keeping everything quintessentially Bagel Station, down to the name and menu items – while expanding in size, location, and flavorful options.
Todd Hall: Hello, I’m Todd Hall, president and CEO of Truliant. As we mark our 70th anniversary in 2022, we reflect on a rich history that would not be possible without the support of the great city of Winston-Salem. From our humble beginnings in 1952 to the present where we will soon serve over 300,000 members, hire our 1000th employee, and exceed 4 billion in assets to a future poised for continued growth. I am proud of the work we are doing together. Truliant is grateful for and remains committed to Winston-Salem and all of Forsyth County.
Ditra Miller: Welcome to the Greater Conversations Podcast. I’m Ditra Miller, the Director of Member Relations and Engagement at Greater Winston-Salem, Inc.
We’ll use this platform to showcase our local businesses, our community, and their stories.
Hi everyone. Welcome back to the show. I’m super excited today. There are bagels in the room. Oh yeah.
Tim Beeman: I never complain when there’s food.
Ditra Miller: We love food people. We love our food in Winston-Salem and today we have Marc Singer and Amy Singer Douglass with us, the owners of Bagel Station.
There’s one other owner that’s not here with us today. I’ll let them introduce that person, but Marc Singer is the owner and handles operations. And Amy Singer Douglass is also an owner and handles the marketing for Bagel Station. Welcome to you both. Thanks for joining us.
Amy Douglass: Thank you for having us. Of course.
Ditra Miller: Yes, you’re very welcome. So for most of our local listeners, they’re probably super familiar with the Bagel Station, but for those that are listening that may not be, share what the Bagel Station is.
Amy Douglass: Well, we’re the lucky second owners of Bagel Station. It is a bagel shop started by previous owners, Dan and Kathy Winters, who obviously were yearning for a New York style bagel and started the shop in 1990. And so we were lucky enough to take ownership on, if you can believe it, April Fool’s Day of 2016. It was no joke, but it was a new venture and Marc one of our other owners and also happens to be my brother has a rich history in bagels. So he had a special relationship with the original owner, and I’ll let him tell you about.
Marc Singer: I was in the bagel business and I had previously to the Bagel Station, I had a retail store in Charlotte, North Carolina. Then I also expanded and opened up a wholesale bagel manufacturing facility and owned that for about 17 years. While I was in the bagel business, I made a point of making friends with other bagel store owners.
And Dan was one of the people that I stayed in contact with who was an anesthesiologist in his main career path and bagels was a, a hobby for him, with him and his wife.
He was able to maintain both his practice as well as his bagel business over the 25 years, which he prided himself on. I got to know Dan over the years and then I wound up selling my company in 2017, and then everything kind of stopped.
No more emails, no more phones and everything dried. Much more so than I ever realized once you sell your business, after doing it for 17 years. And I started to call some of the people that I knew, Dan, being one of them, and I said, Dan, if you ever need any help, I said, I’ve got a lot of time in my hands now.
And literally the next day he called me and said, I’d love for you to come and see what you can do to help my operations. The next day I went there and we agreed to a consulting arrangement and then I was there for a year and a half and made quite a few improvements to the business and then I went on to do some other consulting work in Charlotte.
Four years later Dan said, Marc, I want you to help me sell the business. I’m ready to retire. And that’s the way this came about. So then I called my friend CP and told her about the opportunity and I then went back to Dan and said, I’ll tell you what, I’ll do one better. We’re gonna buy the stores from you. And that’s the way it came about.
Ditra Miller: So that leads me to a question I had because I was just wondering, you have kept the name Bagel Station and you’ve just embraced the history and the community around it.
What made you decide to continue with that instead of just going in rebranding, doing something completely new?
Amy Douglass: Bagel Station had a long life of its own before we came along. And we met many people who would tell us stories about how they met their first mom friends there, how they brought their kids there, how they met their bible groups, their running groups, and a gentleman who would come every Sunday and have a bagel and coffee because it reminded him of going fishing with his dad up in Connecticut. Oh, they would go and get a bagel and coffee on the way to the stream, and he would come every Sunday and do that. So Bagel Station was far larger than we were. It was important that it remained so that we didn’t make any changes.
The only thing we ever wanted to do was paint, fix, tidy maybe add some menu items, but never take anything away. And there was a little pushback in the beginning when we took the paintbrush to the walls and hung some signs that kind of illuminated a little bit more of what was on the menu.
It was two tiny little chalkboards in the beginning, and there was like, 15 or 20 items and you really didn’t get the breadth and scope of what you could really order. So we expanded on that. And there was a little bit of a temporary panic that, wow, we may have been corporatizing, that was the word.
Marc Singer: A lot of the customers basically were urging us not to change anything. So we try to incorporate that into our ways as we move forward.
Amy Douglass: You know, we’re there, there will be another Bagel Station owner at some point, right? When we all decide to come to the same point that Dan did. But it has a life of its own and it needed to remain. So, so that was our goal.
Ditra Miller: Love that. Well, speaking of continuing the legacy we recently had a ribbon cutting at your location where you’ve expanded. And there are some amazing things in that expansion. Talk a little bit about that and how it embraces the community.
Amy Douglass: Well, we always kind of wanted to expand. The space wasn’t there. And then we were able to just sort of break through the wall and add a dining room. And we knew we needed a little creative inspiration in order to figure out how to make it continue as a community space.
And we reached out to Melissa Ward, the interior designer locally very talented, who gave us some wonderful ideas. We had a pretty tight budget. And she was very gracious to work within that for us. And she suggested that we connect with Holly Linville Evans, who is a local artist and specializes in Winston-Salem cityscapes.
Holly was as gracious as can be and allowed us to provide a lot of input into what we wanted to see. And, and I said, you know, I think it’s important for the community to understand that we are here continuously as part of the fabric of the city.
And so she integrated a lot of the things that we asked her to. We stuck with the colleges and some of the landmarks and things and the nonprofits. We’ve gotten some lovely feedback about it and just are so happy to welcome people back in the dining room.
Marc Singer: They’re happy to see it as well. They’re embracing it very nicely. We were there today and just a lot of people sitting down now and enjoying it.
Amy Douglass: Yes. Nice to see smiling faces in the dining room again. And that’s what the hospitality industry is.
And then today Holly came back and hung more original art because we’re going to be taking the other two walls in the space and using it as a place for local artists to display their work. So Holly will kick it off. It seemed appropriate for her to do that.
And then we’ll be putting a call out to community artists to see if they’d like to hang their art as well.
Ditra Miller: You guys are not originally from Winston-Salem, but you have embraced it in such a wonderful way. What is it that you love about this community?
Marc Singer: Well, my heart is still with Winston, because I actually started in Winston-Salem after graduating college. I got recruited by the Village Tavern. I started when they had one store and I worked for Scott Richardson and a few other investors. But they had one store and their plan was to open up many more Village Taverns. So I started with them in 1988, and then worked for them for two and a half years.
But during those two and a half years, I worked at the one at Reynolda Village. And then they opened one up in Greensboro. And I got transferred and promoted to open up the Greensboro store. And then literally 60 days later they opened up the Charlotte store and I got transferred and promoted to open up the Charlotte store. I then wound up leaving them after two and a half years to start my company called Bagel Time.
Amy Douglass: I worked for Marc in Charlotte for several years before moving out of state. But what I really love about Winston is the artsy foodie scene and the academia. I love the spirit of the city. It seems like it’s a place that is welcoming. I had a friend who lived here for a number of years and moved away recently an artist who decided to kind of plunge back into what she was doing, and the community embraced her with open arms and really jumpstarted her art career again at a time when she thought she had something new to offer. There’s just a great vibe here.
Tim Beeman: I have to say , admittedly, I’ve only been to your location once, but I’ve had bagels from there because you know, it’s the place to go really.
And so people have brought them my way. But I was there about three weeks ago, the first time I actually had been in. I had to admit that bagels haven’t always been my thing. But I had a sausage, egg, and cheese bagel. And then I had another one with some special cream cheese, because that’s what you do, right?
But I was there with one of my favorite former New Yorkers who swears by your location. So, a New Yorker can go in there and recommend it. Then it must be something special.
Amy Douglass: Right. For sure. And believe me, we have a lot of reviews that start out with “I’m a New Yorker and I should know…”
Marc Singer: And that makes me feel good. Because I feel like since I’ve been doing it for 20 something years, that at least I did something right.
Amy Douglass: The only thing we don’t have is the water.
Marc Singer: That’s true. But you don’t need the water. Bagels are still good without the water. Without this certain type of water.
Tim Beeman: I mean, do you really want to drink the Hudson River?
Ditra Miller: Well, we can’t talk about bagels without you guys talking a little bit about the menu. So talk a little bit about what you offer.
Amy Douglass: We’re pretty traditional you know, egg sandwiches. We’re a total custom shop. If you’re thinking you’re going to come to us and you’re going to order the number nine, there’s no such thing as a number nine at Bagel Station.
Because the bagel will be different and how it gets toasted will be different and the kind of egg you want. And different cheeses and different meats. And then we have all our deli selections. We have over 20 flavors of bagels and about 17 flavors of cream cheeses.
You could come for 400 and something days straight and just eat bagels and a new bagel and cream cheese combination that doesn’t even include the egg sandwiches and the deli sandwiches for those keeping track.
We’re such a custom shop and, and sometimes that’s makes our job a lot harder, right? Because no, we aren’t making the number nine. The team works really hard and fast.
We’re very lucky to say we have a good, hardworking team and they really enjoy getting to know the customers and we appreciate that very much.
Marc Singer: They recognize a lot of them by walking in the door and they already know it might be blueberry and cream cheese or some interesting combination specific to them.
Ditra Miller: I love that. And one thing that a lot of people may not know is you cater also.
Amy Douglass: We do. Our sweet spot is office parties and events of that nature. And here and there we get called on to do something larger.
We did do a little alleyoop recently and catered a wedding, if you can believe it. It was not a breakfast wedding, it was a dinner wedding. I think I lost sleep for a week leading up to it, worrying that we didn’t make enough food or whatever.
And there are people that come every week for regular office meetings. We do bagel trays, we do pastry trays, we do boxed lunch. We do fruit trays. We do coffee to go. We get a lot of tailgaters who will come in and do trays. We’ve fed the football teams and the soccer teams and it’s a real joy.
The minimum notice for us is 24 hours if you’re just getting a bagel tray. Other items we ask for two days notice.
It’s fun regrowing again, since now people are gathering together again, we can cater because it got quiet, they weren’t doing that for quite a bit.
Ditra Miller: We mentioned a lot the original location, but you actually have two locations. Share with everyone what those two locations are?
Amy Douglass: The original store that opened in 1990 is on 129 Oakwood Drive. And then we have a second location, 1977 Peace Haven Road.
That one opened about 1996. In the Whitaker Square Shopping Center.
Ditra Miller: What does the future hold for the bagel station?
Marc Singer: We’re going to focus on possibly doing another slight renovation to 129 Oakwood Drive for the ability to process orders faster. Because of the expansion, we’re getting more people coming in, so we need to figure out ways to get more efficient and possibly even expand maybe some menu items and offer up some new things for the customer.
I think also just continue to work on employee retention. On how to keep good people and then keep doing more of the same, you know I think it’s not broken, so just keep doing a lot more of the same.
Ditra Miller: Is there anything that we didn’t touch on today that you want everyone listening to know?
Amy Douglass: We’re grateful.
Marc Singer: Really grateful for the customers, our employees, just and to be in business.
Amy Douglass: People were very generous in spirit and action during the pandemic. We were very appreciative for that. We did our level best to keep on keeping on in the last few years, and we managed to still come out of this. You know, we were actually turning 30 in March of 2020. And we had a whole year’s worth of interesting marketing plans, and we were going to try and start the expansion then. And then the whole world changed. So we’re just grateful we were able to pick it up a few years later.
Ditra Miller: Well, for everyone that’s listening, again, you have two locations. 129 Oakwood and 1977 Peace Haven. So please visit everybody listening, and if you’re interested in catering, go to their website, which is…
Amy Douglass: You can go to bagelstation.com. We have an Instagram account, bagelstationws and then on Facebook Bagel Station II or Bagel Station Oakwood. They have their own personality, so they deserve their own Facebook pages.
Ditra Miller: Perfect. And speaking of personality, please do drop by the Oakwood location so you can check out the wonderful art that’s in the expansion. So again, Marc and Amy, thank you so much for being here and for everyone listening, we know you enjoyed this podcast today, so join us for the next episode of Greater Conversations. By the way, you can follow us on social media, we’re on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Be sure to smash that subscribe button. Also be sure to visit our website at winstonsalem.com.
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