Outsider in bagel business finds inside track to success

Man owns 4 restaurants, plant in Howard County

Small business

Howard Business

April 17, 2000|By Stacey Hirsh | Stacey Hirsh,SUN STAFF

Growing up, Steve Girard wasn't exactly a bagel connoisseur.

"I was a gentile from upstate New York," he said. "I'd had a couple of Lender's Bagels."

But much has changed for the 50-year-old entrepreneur, who since 1982 has become the owner of four Bagel Bin restaurants and a bagel manufacturing plant in Howard County.

One change has occurred in Girard's diet: He and his family sink their teeth into fresh bagels every night with dinner. "They get upset with me if I forget to bring them home," he said.

But on the business front, Girard has become owner of a more than $3 million operation that has about 90 employees and sells about 70,000 bagels a week. The plant, which supplies Girard's restaurants and sells bagels wholesale, makes about 40 kinds of bagels, though the restaurants stock their shelves with only about 20 varieties at a time.

The River Hill Bagel Bin, which opened in 1997, is the newest of Girard's restaurants. He first began his business in 1982, when he and a partner opened the Bagel Shoppe in Wilde Lake.

Back then, Girard and his partner had five employees and got their bagels through a supplier, also called the Bagel Shoppe, which had a Pikesville store with a manufacturing plant in Owings Mills.

Girard's business quickly expanded. In 1986, he bought out his partner; and three years later, he opened the Bagel Shoppe in Kings Contrivance Village Center. In 1992, Girard opened a manufacturing plant in Elkridge, and because he was no longer using his supplier, he changed the name of his stores from Bagel Shoppe to Bagel Bin.

The Bagel Bin opened in the Enchanted Forest shopping center in 1993, and then came the store in River Hill.

The manufacturing plant now sells about $25,000 worth of raw bagels each week to three bagel stores in the region and a supermarket chain. It sells another $25,000 of cooked bagels a week to restaurants and delicatessens in Howard County, Girard said.

Among Girard's four retail stores, the cash registers ring up sales to about 10,000 customers a week, he said.

Loretta Knipling has been eating at the Bagel Bin in River Hill since it opened. She often has breakfast there after her workout at a gym. "My treat on many occasions is to come here and get my bagels," Knipling said.

Girard's four stores and the manufacturing plant go through a tractor-trailer load of flour every month. That's 456 bags, each weighing 100 pounds.

Using the Elkridge manufacturing plant, the Bagel Bin has tinkered with exotic flavors, including Hawaiian bagels seasoned with coconut and pineapple. And, although that flavor wasn't too popular, the company does produce red bagels on Valentines Day, green on St. Patrick's Day and two weeks ago on Opening Day, they sold Orioles bagels made of pumpernickel and orange dough swirled together.

"Everyone said, `That's ugly. Give me six,' " Girard said of the Orioles bagels.

The Bagel Bin is also now expanding into the world of foccacia, Kaiser rolls, sourdough rounds and multigrain breads. "A lot of people don't want a bread that fights back," Girard said. "And a good New York bagel fights back."

As far as Girard's pallet for bagels, he's come a long way from munching on a few Lender's as a kid. And even after 18 years in the business, he isn't soured on the taste of bagels.

"I am a bread maniac," he said. "I still love bagels."

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