Kettlemans Bagel Expands With First Downtown Toronto Location [Interview/Photos]

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Ottawa-based Kettlemans Bagel has opened its long-anticipated Downtown Toronto storefront at 33 Bathurst Street. The large-format storefront is the first of several for the city as part of an expansion for Kettlemans.

The Bathurst Street location is an all day 24/7/365 operation with the classic Kettlemans Bagel menu, which includes sandwiches, bulk bagel orders and prepared selection of market to-go food.

Daniel Reyes Cocka

Kettlemans Bagel was founded in 1993 in Ottawa and has since expanded into 5 locations, including the newest store in Toronto. The brand has expansion plans beyond the Bathurst & Front location, and according to the team behind the iconic bagel company, it was important to build the excitement in the city.

“You’d be astonished at how many people live in Toronto who are from Ottawa,” shared Daniel Reyes Cocka, Director of Marketing and Communications for Kettlemans Bagel. “The minute they hear ‘Kettlemans’ is in downtown Toronto – it sets off this emotional response. It’s so important. It’s become almost like a heritage brand in the city.”

Kettlemans Bagel Bathurst (Image: Kettlemans Bagel)
Kettlemans Bagel Bathurst (Image: Kettlemans Bagel)

“24-hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. It’s a very important piece for us, as obviously being downtown Toronto…it’s always the McDonalds in the middle of the night and what else? We’re stepping into an entirely new world, which is incredibly exciting for us.”

Craig Buckley

The Bathurst & Niagara store is in the Minto Westside, a 1200-unit condo development which includes a Farm Boy grocery store and multiple large-scale developments within a short distance, including The Well. In addition to a full scale Quick Service Restaurant operation, Kettlemans also has secured enough space in the building to create a wholesale support function to add to its Etobicoke production facility.

“The building is owned by Minto and the owners approached us three years ago,” said Craig Buckley, Owner of Kettlemans Bagel. “At that time, Farm Boy wasn’t signed and I walked away from the conversation. When Farm Boy ended up coming, I reached out to the ownership and we had a conversation.”

That conversation turned into a location that employs more than 100 people from many diverse backgrounds and experience levels, including team members from other stores in the network that are on-site to help with the training and development of the new store.

Kettlemans Bagel Bathurst (Image: Dustin Fuhs)
Kettlemans Bagel Bathurst (Image: Dustin Fuhs)

“We looked at locations around the downtown core before deciding on this spot, including The PATH, Union Station, Yonge Dundas Square,” Buckley said. “We had an opportunity to go into a spot on Yonge Street between King and Adelaide. We say to each other that it’s like The Matrix, where you’re going backwards and the world is going by you – that’s how we felt. We were supposed to go into the airport in Ottawa and we ducked that. So this is great, as this is downtown, but people live here. Whereas if we go to the Financial District, it’s more of a different experience.”

“This is the first of the downtown Toronto locations,” shared Cocka. “Later this year, we’re going to be opening up Whitby and then Yonge & Eglinton ideally next year. That will position us in the west, the east and the downtown core (south). Expansion into other cities will continue, but Toronto is a massive market for us.”

The concept and design of the location was designed with a purpose, including the seating and mobile-order pickup spots.

Kettlemans Bagel has partnered with UBER and SkiptheDishes for delivery options and is looking at a number of technological updates as the brand expands into new locations. The brand has an app which will allow for customers to order in advance and earn points through purchases.

“The demand is here – we’ve almost doubled our instagram page in the last year. Our Facebook page is over 40k likes. Anytime we talk about Toronto, everyone gets incredibly excited. It’s a matter of finding new locations that we can fit in, because we need a lot of space.”

Kettlemans Bagel Bathurst (Image: Dustin Fuhs)
Kettlemans Bagel Bathurst (Image: Dustin Fuhs)

Buckley said that each location is built from the ground up, and because the brand is privately owned – the expansion costs can be significant.

“Each one of these stores are $2.5 million to build. We’re here for the long term – we need to stay in a location for 15-20 years to get our money back. People don’t realize the amount of money that it takes to build these locations. We want to make sure that we pay people properly.”

“Our ovens are made in Washington State. Our mixers are specialty made for us by a company that’s been around for 100 years outside of Chicago – it’s actually more expensive than our ovens. The contractors are actually a Montreal company, with offices here in Toronto.”

“We’re not reinventing the wheel. I love Montreal bagels and if you’ve ever been to a Montreal bagel shop – they’re not big places. You go and buy a bag of bagels, your cream cheese and go outside and dip the bagel in the spread and you go on your way. I always thought that there was so much more that can be done with a bagel. We’ve always made sandwiches on the bagel – and I always wanted a QSR. I didn’t want waiter service.”

“Now, this is a nice bagel shop. It’s not fancy. I wanted it to look nice, but I didn’t want it to be over the top. I wanted you to be able to go up and get a sandwich or buy a bunch of bagels and go home. They’re so filling and delicious.”

Kettlemans Bagel Bathurst (Image: Dustin Fuhs)

The Kettlemans Bagel team said that the company doesn’t have food to give away to food banks at the end of the day because of the way that its business model works in terms of production for retail and wholesale.

“The fascinating part about this location is that we don’t usually have waste,” shared Cocka. The reason why is that we are 24/7 and we have wholesale. If we’re not producing for our guests in-store, we are producing for our wholesale business. It allows us a real clean business model.”

Buckley said that the brand does have two different organizations that they help support in various ways.

“We donate to two different organizations in-store. Kettlemans Bagel donates 5% of sales from the LGBT sandwich directly to CANFAR, which no other QSR donates year round proceeds from an individual item.” Kettlemans Bagel also donates to Camp Misquah, a camp located on Lac Bitobi near Gracefield, Quebec, approximately an hour north of Ottawa.

“Continously giving back,” added Cocka. “…in every community that we operate, it’s important that we are a part of the culture, part of the economy and a part of the people.”

Article Author

Dustin Fuhs
Dustin Fuhs
Dustin Fuhs is the Editor-in-Chief of Retail Insider, Canada's most read retail trade publication. He has over 20 years experience in the retail, marketing, entertainment and hospitality industries. He has worked with Retail Insider since October 2020 in a number of roles, including associate publisher of the Retail Insider magazine. Dustin was named as Editor-in-Chief of Retail Insider in 2022. Dustin was named as a RETHINK Retail Top Retail Expert in 2024.

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