Sometimes, the third time’s the charm for achieving success. This may just be the case for the island’s only New York-style bagel restaurant, which after several attempts at starting the business, has finally found a home at the Paseo Caribe complex.
The concept was born in 2015, when Alvin Quiñones and former business partner Dimitri Astapkovich decided to open the bagel shop, which is still unique in Puerto Rico. They decided, considering the costs associated with starting a business, to open a food truck in 2016.
That 18-foot, black-and-white, vehicle found a home at the Miramar Food Truck park, where it began to gain traction and generate a following of bagel lovers, who found in Puerto Rico Bagel Co. a wide variety of the hand-made bread creation.
“I invested $50,000 in the truck initially,” said Quiñones, in an exclusive interview with this media outlet. “But we soon came to find out that making bread in a food truck wasn’t a very good idea.”
So, that said, the partners decided to look for a physical location, where they could have the equipment they needed to bake the bagels — which are available in nearly a dozen varieties and can be ordered with cream cheese or as a sandwich created by Chef Jorge Linares, who has been with the business since it opened.
That second location was found on Ponce de León Ave. But as fate would have it, soon after that spot was secured, Hurricane María slammed into the island, leaving the entrepreneurs without a place to set up.
“We were unable to open until December 2018, when the power came back,” Quiñones said, adding that in the meantime, they sold the truck and he moved on with the business on his own. “But we had another misstep when the electricity was shut off at the food court that we were in. So, we closed the business in June 2019.”
A few months later, the management of the Paseo Caribe complex approached Quiñones, offering him a location on the second level of the mixed-use complex. It took Puerto Rico Bagel Co. four months to lock down all of the required permits, which lead to the third opening in October 2019.
“I told them they had to be very generous with me, because I had been through many problems. And they were,” said Quiñones, who by now has invested a total of $140,000 in the business he refuses to give up on.
Quiñones and his staff — all of which are friends, and each cover a different task within the operation — are back to catering to “the bagel lovers, who have been following us since the food truck in Santurce, to here,” said Linares.
“Why do I keep putting money into this and struggling to keep it open? Because I love our food. If it weren’t for that, I wouldn’t be here,” the entrepreneur said.
The menu offers 11 bagel varieties — all of which are vegan, except for the cheddar option — and six cream cheese flavors, going from sweet to savory. Those bagels can be ordered simply with cream cheese, or as the main ingredient in dishes such as: the “Angry Wife,” a concoction of corned beef, sweet plantains and a fried egg; a turkey club; a Cuban sandwich and the PRBC brisket, among others.
On the sweet side, Puerto Rico Bagel Co. also offers dessert, combining sweet bagels with Nutella and Bacon, christened as “The Last Meal.” The menu also offers salads and vegetarian options. In a few weeks, the company will also begin selling Keto-friendly bagels, which will join the rest of the lineup, Quiñones said.