Local has become quite a buzz word, especially in the restaurant business. At the Bagel Grove we are interested in developing what local really means, why it matters and how we can make it count. We are committed to fostering community, supporting our local food movement, and creating sustainable, living-wage jobs. We believe that small businesses are the backbone of local economies and can really make a difference if they are run according to principles and a focus on people over profits. We know our success is due, not only to our amazing product, but also to the environment surrounding our business structure and the way our customers tap into our larger vision of community and sustainability. Because of our values and commitment to certain ideals, the Bagel Grove is much more than just another neighborhood bakery, we are an ever growing family.
Local really DOES matter, and here are some of the reasons why:
If you walk into our lunchroom on a busy Sunday morning you will see many examples of community building right off the bat. Our newly renovated lunchroom has a 10 person communal table where friends and strangers can sit and share a meal together. The friendly, interactive environment in our lunchroom is intentional and noticeable. When we take orders we ask for people’s names rather than assigning them a number, this way we can begin to get to know our customers in this initial but very important way. We are also resolved to never have a drive-thru so that convenience and speed do not make us slaves to car-culture and the loss of necessary human interactions as part of our daily routine.We source all of our ingredients, non-food items and services from local, upstate companies, many of them small, family-owned businesses like our own. The sales people for many of these companies live in the area and are also our customers. We also feature items from other local restaurants such as Karam’s humus on our sandwiches, Symeon’s spiced bagel chips, Avico Utica Grind in our Utica Greens bagel, and our Saranac Black&Tan bagel.
Several of our main ingredients are sourced directly from farms in the area. Any of the ingredients that we can source locally we do, including all of our eggs, a quarter of our cream cheese, our whole wheat flour, honey, maple products as well as a few dairy grocery items we have available for sale in our store. Buying from local farms is important because of the improved taste and quality of these items. But equally important to us is the fulfillment of our values about buying locally, supporting farmers directly and creating a viable local food system. Working with local farmers takes an effort to listen to the farmer’s needs, to learn about the specifics of their product (which is not as consistent as the food coming from a factory farm), and to adjust to the very real effects of weather conditions on these farm fresh products. We are one of the only restaurants in our area where customers can find so many fresh, local products, but we hope that both customer demand as well as supply will continue to grow and the local food movement can flourish.
A part of building community in our business is the community we build behind the counter, among our employees. We boast about our staff of about 20 that they are the best group of folks we could ask for. We are committed to supporting and training our employees so that they stick with us over the long term. Some of our employees have been with us for almost the entire time we’ve been in business, many have been with us for five to ten years, and even the newest employees are treated as though they are part of the organization in a serious way. Almost every employee has worked longer at Bagel Grove than any other job they’ve held. We value empowerment as a management technique and feel that employee suggestions as well as a good amount of autonomy is essential to a healthy work environment. We also believe that work should be fun and that the essential parts of the job like customer service and working very early morning hours can drag a person down. Because of this we embrace the reality that down time and socialization can be incorporated into a productive work environment along with efficiency and self-direction. In addition to base pay we offer an array of benefits including affordable health insurance, paid sick, personal and vacation days and an Employee Assistance Program with free short-term counseling. Because we feel that the success of the business is everyone’s responsibility and due to everyone’s contribution, we have quarterly “Open Book” meetings where we discuss the finances of the business with all the employees and include semi-annual profit sharing as an integral part of our vision. Because we trust and value our employees, they in return treat the Bagel Grove as more than just a paycheck source and often go above and beyond to serve the needs of the customers, the business and each other.
More than just an academic concept, we believe that sustainability should be a guiding principle for how decisions are made. This is especially true in the corporate sector because we (though Bagel Grove is a very small piece of the corporate sector) have such a large-scale impact on the environment and living conditions for both humans and non-humans. As much as possible we have chosen either organic, fair trade or all-natural ingredients when they can’t be sourced locally. This includes a full line of Equal Exchange coffees, chocolates, and teas, organic raisins, seeds, sugar and un-bleached, un-bromated flour. We strive to reduce waste and trash and use bio-degradable disposables as they become affordable. We also use non-toxic chemicals for cleaning. Though compromises are inevitable, and the bottom line is a reality, having a commitment to the health of the environment is an important part of our business model and planning for the future.