It’s been just under a year since Belle’s Bagels, a pop-up bakery outfit founded by friends Nick Schreiber and J.D. Rocchio, took over a corner of La Perla Bakery in Highland Park. On most mornings the duo would sell out of the soft, chewy, crispy hand-rolled bagels covered in poppy seeds, sesame or “everything” spices. Their bagels are long-fermented, use organic ingredients whenever possible and are made with artisan flour from Utah. For a city with a reputation for lousy bagels, Belle’s Bagels was a rare beacon of hope.
Since ending their pop-up residency last spring, Schreiber and Rocchio have been searching for a permanent bakery location in Highland Park or Eagle Rock, where they occasionally hosted weekend brunch parties before setting up shop at La Perla. According to Rocchio, the search for a new space since then has been an arduous process.
This past Friday, Belle’s Bagels launched an online petition for signatures, hoping to garner enough local support for landlords to take a chance on an upstart bagel bakery. As Rocchio told us in an email:
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Nick and I have met with a few landlords and do find ourselves at a disadvantage as first-time restaurateurs – some have ruled us out for that reason before we even saw their space. So we started the petition to show local landlords and/or their realtors that there is already a groundswell of support for our shop, and that our established customer base mitigates (some of) the risk of moving us in.
Rocchio and Schreiber are intent on staying in Highland Park, but they admit they may have “chosen the right neighborhood at the wrong time,” a nod perhaps to the neighborhood's real estate boom, which has made retail space all the more competitive (and pricey).
At the time this post was published, the petition has gained 800 of its 1,000-signature goal, but it's unclear whether the signatures will be enough to allow Belle’s Bagels to find a brick-and-mortar home. Rocchio and Schreiber have remained positive, however, further developing and refining their concept and appearing at the EastSide Food Festival back in November.
“Our dream is for the shop to function like a traditional bagel shop," Rocchio says, with "everything baked on-site, counter service with deli cases, great coffee, photos signed by unknown celebrities.”