Ottawa-Based Kettlemans Bagel Expanding Store Footprint Further into Ontario and Quebec: Interview

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Ottawa-based Kettlemans Bagel is expanding its footprint in Ontario and will be establishing a location in Montreal where the company has its roots.

The first Kettlemans store opened in August 1993 in Ottawa along the busy Bank Street, across the street from the iconic Lansdowne Park area – a vision of Montreal native Craig Buckley to bring the Montreal-style bagels to the nation’s capital.

Daniel Reyes Cocka

The company currently has four locations, three in Ottawa including the original location, and one in Etobicoke.

Daniel Reyes Cocka, Director of Marketing and Communications for the company, said the Montreal-style bagels are made in the traditional recipe of hand rolling the dough which is done in front of customers, the air is pressed out of the dough and once the bagel is formed it is boiled in honey water giving it a sweeter taste on the exterior. The bagel is then finished in a wood burning oven.

“That creates a crunchy sweet exterior with a fluffy light airy interior to the bagel,” he said. 

Image: Kettlemans Bagel

Reyes Cocka said the company will be expanding to the Montreal market in early 2022 at Av. des Canadiens-de-Montréal, across the street from the Bell Centre. The company is also opening a fourth and final location in Ottawa and a second location in Toronto is slated for the corner of Bathurst and Niagara. Plans are also for locations at Yonge and Eglinton and one in Whitby. Bathurst will open in the coming months. The Whitby store as well as the one at Yonge and Eglinton will open in 2022.

Five locations will open within the next year.

“The company is essentially doubling in size in the next year,” said Reyes Cocka. 

“It was important for us to obviously expand into the GTA market because of the sheer size of it. Financially it made sense. Etobicoke was our first foray into the Toronto space but of course respecting the fact that Torontonians are pretty adamant about their neighbourhoods, opening up downtown Toronto on Bathurst will be a whole new experience for us, which is very exciting.

“Going into French Canada and ultimately bringing the brand back to Montreal as our founder is from there is very important for us as well because that is the capital of Montreal-style bagels obviously. After that the plan is to expand into the United States therefore offering us the opportunity to grow in the American market and hopefully get an IPO.”

Image: Kettlemans Bagel

Reyes Cocka did not have a potential number of how many stores the company could grow to in the future but he did say it would look at as many as they possibly could do.

“For the time being the next five are the focus until the end of 2022. After that it will most likely be our foray in 2023 into the American market,” he said.

While the majority of customers for the brand pick up bagels and go, there is in-store dining available at the locations.

“One of the reasons we are so successful is that we offer our customers a “no-wall” experience. When patrons walk into our bagel shop, the first thing they see is the Kettlemans Bagel Roller working and rolling fresh bagels, cutting the dough with a knife, and boiling the bagels in honey water to seal moisture,” said the company on its website.

Behind the Bagel Roller is the baker who finishes the bagels with fresh poppy or sesame seeds and bakes them for about twenty minutes in our wood-burning oven. Once the process is complete, and it is an active process of carefully turning over the bagels away from the open hot wood flames, the bagels are ready to be eaten.”

Reyes Cocka said the name of the company is a reference to what they used to call people who made Montreal bagels using a kettle which was boiled in honey water. 

“People resonate with bagels and with Kettlemans Bagels specifically because it’s the experience from start to finish. It’s walking into the store and having that smell of the wood oven. It’s our exceptional team members that make sure that every guest leaves happy. And it’s that consistently delicious bagel when you bite into it. It’s quite the experience. It’s a very memorable moment in your life when you have your first Montreal bagel,” he said.

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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