Businessman sees opening for bagels

Cafe owner moves from tax policy to working with dough

Restaurant profile

Howard Live

September 27, 2001|By Karen Nitkin | Karen Nitkin,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Every time Jason Stamm drove by the empty storefront in the newly constructed Lyndwood Square Shopping Center, he thought it would be the perfect place for a coffee shop. He was tired of driving miles for a decent cup of coffee.

Finally, he realized nobody else was going to do it, so he got together with partners Maria and Michael Pugliese to create Cafe Bagel.

With a background in tax policy and information technology, Stamm realized his knowledge of bagel-making was scant. He had not worked in a restaurant since he was 14.

But that didn't stop him. "We did some research, contacted the landlords, learned how to open a bagel shop and opened one," he said.

That was in 1999. Since then, Stamm has been working roughly 100-hour weeks serving bagels, sandwiches, salads and coffees. Most days, he starts at about 2 a.m. and does not leave until after 4 p.m., he said.

Probably the most important step, he said, was finding a mentor - Gary Van Hoven, owner of Joan and Gary's Original Bagel Co. in Pikesville. "We entered in a consulting agreement. However, in the old days you would call it a master apprenticeship," Stamm said.

Stamm boils and bakes the bagels on the premises, using dough he buys from Van Hoven. Because the two are in different locations, they are not in direct competition and don't mind sharing advice and observations about the business, Stamm said.

The menu is varied, with bagel choices ranging from sweet (apple cinnamon and chocolate chip) to savory (jalapeno corn and sun-dried tomato) to hearty (10-grain, sunflower and whole wheat). Flavored cream cheeses include bacon scallion, honey walnut, roasted red pepper and olive.

For sandwiches, customers can choose corned beef, smoked white- fish salad, egg salad and others. Specialty sandwiches include "Jason's Choice," with rare roast beef, brie, lettuce and tomato.

A kids' menu offers sandwiches on smaller bagels, including "fluffer nutter" sandwiches made with peanut butter and marshmallow fluff. (Though they're not on the menu, Stamm says, he has fulfilled requests for adult-sized "fluffer nutter" sandwiches.)

For a hot beverage, the menu lists, among other things, espresso, cappuccino, latte and chai (a trendy tea drink).

Still, Stamm said, the most popular breakfast item is a plain toasted bagel with cream cheese, and the most popular lunch request is a smoked turkey sandwich.

Cafe Bagel has a catering business and serves local synagogues, Stamm said. Food that is catered can be kosher, he said. At the cafe, items sold at the counter are kosher, although sandwiches and salads prepared in the back are not, he said.

Stamm is waiting for construction to be completed on several nearby office buildings. He hopes 30 percent will be finished by the end of the year, bringing new customers to his shop. He will be prepared with new menu items on such specialty breads as foccacia and pannini.

Though Stamm is working long hours, he loves what he does. "I used to think a 65-hour work week was incredible," said Stamm, who opened the cafe when he was 24 and still doesn't have the distraction of a wife or kids. "I have a fantastic staff. We make the day go by very quickly."

Cafe Bagel

Where: Lyndwood Shopping Center, 6010 Marshalee Drive, No. 220, Elkridge; 410-540-4900.

Hours: 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday; 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday; 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday; 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.

Prices: 95 cents for a bagel with butter to $6.50 for some sandwiches and salads.

Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard and American Express

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