The scent hits you long before you turn the corner.
At first, it’s just a gentle tickle, so light that you wonder whether it was a figment of the imagination. But as you step deeper into Whitehorse’s Horwoods Mall, it becomes unmistakable: it’s that sweet, mouthwatering smell of baking bread, with the occasional hint of toasted sesame seeds, or perhaps some rosemary or garlic.
A few more steps, around the corner, and there they are — baskets and bags of freshly-baked bagels ready to be snatched up, their still-too-hot-to-eat counterparts resting on baking sheets stacked high on a nearby cooling rack.
You can thank Alena Puskas and Adrian Burrill for this newfound carb-heavy heaven — after two years of running Bullet Hole Bagels out of rented kitchens and slinging their hole-y goods at farmer’s markets, cafes and the Independent grocery store, the duo have taken the plunge and opened their own shop in the core of downtown Whitehorse.
“(It’s) a little surreal,” Burrill told the News on Aug. 30, just one day after the shop officially opened for business. “Yesterday I kind of had a few moments of realization that, ‘Wow, it actually happened,’ because yeah, two years ago, it was totally different, we were just making bagels for fun… It’s a little surreal, but very good.”
As dream-like as it may be, having a permanent, physical store of their own isn’t so much a dream come true as a long-term goal finally achieved, Burrill said.
He and Puskas figured out early on in their bagel-selling journey that renting out kitchens for make-and-bake sessions (first, from L’Association franco-yukonnaise and then from the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre) could only last so long.
(Puskas is away until October and was not available for comment for this story.)
“It wasn’t like there was any negative thing about the rental kitchen,” Burrill explained, adding that they knew those spots had to be temporary because of the work involved in hauling ingredients and bagels back and forth to the part-time locations.
“So early on, we were like, this is great, we love making bagels and people getting excited about our bagels makes you feel good and that’s great, but at the same time, we knew we had to move on eventually and it was just a matter of finding the right spot.”
Horwoods Mall came into the picture about a year ago, when Burrill said he and Puskas were tipped off that a spot might be opening up in the near future. At that point, they’d already been shopping around for a location, but Horwoods was the “clear choice” because “it was such a good location.”
With its health inspection passed and its ovens firing away, Burrill said that the focus of Bullet Hole’s tiny team (besides him and Puskas, there are just two other employees) is now getting into the groove of making bagels full-time. There are still a few things that need fine-tuning — the store is still waiting on a “sneeze guard” to arrive (right now, there’s only a counter-height wall dividing the “shop” and “kitchen” portions of the space), staff are still adjusting to how much space they have to work with and Burrill said that their current hours (Tuesday to Saturday, from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.) may change based on customer flow. As well, the team must now juggle not just rolling, boiling and baking hundreds of bagels a day (they’re still filling in their orders for Independent, Baked Cafe and Bean North Cafe), but also toasting their goods for customers and, if requested, spreading cream cheese on them (they make an in-house garlic-and-herb spread with fresh dill) and topping them with cucumber and tomato.
There’s also some adapting happening outside of the shop, in Burrill’s personal life.
“I am currently realizing I’m busy,” he said with a laugh. “… I work at the Guild Hall as production manager and I play trumpet with Major Funk (and the Employment) and I do side music projects and recording as a trumpet player, so those two things complemented bagels quite well because we were only doing bagels part-time … but now, five days a week I’ll be baking, so gotta cram more into the day, but it’s exciting.”
But Burrill said he’s confident that the Bullet Hole Bagels team will settle in soon enough, and once everything’s firmly in place, they’ll hold an official grand opening — he’s hoping for sometime later in September.
For now though, he’s certain that the team has at least one thing down-pat — the product that made them local favourites in the first place.
“I’m confident that the bagels are the same as they’ve (always) been,” he said.
Contact Jackie Hong at email@example.com