Richard Huff and Erin Davren, two Cincinnatians who met through college in Dayton, studied law and went to medical school, respectively. Shared time was at a premium when Huff, who had picked up his first law job, followed Davren to Louisville for her residency, but Saturdays were set aside for the duo to connect over bagels at that city’s Nancy’s Bagel Grounds. A bagel or two later, Huff and Davren are now happily married and are opening their brick-and-mortar The Bagelry (formerly known as OTR Bagelry) in their hometown.
“The first batch (Richard made), I remember it being like incredibly good,” Davren says with a laugh. “When I think back on it, I’m sure they were ugly and not nearly the product that (we’ve) got now. But, he just got better and better. I’d have him make them for friends, brunches, stuff like that, and it just continued to be a part of our weekends.”
Now Huff, with the help of his wife and other family members, is graduating from friends, brunches, farmers markets and a Findlay Market pop-up to open The Bagelry on the corner of Walnut and 14th streets in Over-the-Rhine. The Bagelry is slated to open its doors Friday, Oct. 5.
Huff hopes to combine what he calls “New York-style with Cincinnati passion” when producing his bagels and housemade schmear.
“What distinguishes our bagels from most bagels is the time,” Huff says. “One of the main things that we do is a 36- to 48-hour rise. Anybody in the bagel industry will say that’s very unique… And in bread, I won’t get into too much of the nitty gritty details, but that’s actually where bread’s flavor comes from.”
While time and yeast do most of the heavy lifting, Davren, Huff and Huff’s brother, Kyle Jones, all contributed to the company’s recipes to form a continually evolving menu of eight bagels, ranging from the classics — everything, asiago and plain — to options like chocolate chip, cinnamon raisin and blueberry.
And Huff isn’t cutting any corners when it comes to making his cream cheese spreads. Though he doesn’t make the cheese himself, the flavors, including roasted vegetable and jalapeño, are products of high-effort processes.
“We actually take a pan of vegetables and roast them to make our roasted vegetable cream cheese,” Huff says. “And that’s by far our best-seller.”
In the beginning, while Huff and Davren were occupied with their day jobs, Huff’s brother Jones, a jewelry artist turned bagel-baking professional, picked up a job at a bagel shop where he lived in Colorado after Huff introduced the idea of The Bagelry. He intended to learn as much as he could about the bagel business, from hand-rolling the dough to running the cash register, before relocating to Cincinnati.
“I learned a ton in those four months,” he says. “I basically worked non-stop.”
Jones has since paired his knowledge with Huff’s to create a majority of the shop’s current offerings, and the relationship is far from the stereotypical sibling rivalry. In fact, siblings are a focus here: Davren’s sister Colleen Hert also came on board to help with some of the accounting.
“Everybody does everything right now,” Jones says. “No one does just one thing, and that’s so everyone knows how to do everything from top to bottom.”
In addition to bagels, the shop will offer breakfast and lunch sandwiches, lox and a brown-butter-chocolate-chip cookie that Huff is currently fine-tuning as he starts to expand his expertise in baked goods.
To complement the bagels, The Bagelry is also partnering with local Urbana Café to offer coffee at the shop. (Urbana Café will carry The Bagelry’s bagels, too.)
“Richard is not a coffee drinker,” Davren says. “I am very much, and the other two partners are, so Richard didn’t know anything when it came to like what is a good, local coffee. (Urbana Café owner Daniel Noguera) helped him with that and was extremely helpful with what equipment we’d need and will train us on how to use the equipment.”
The emphasis at The Bagelry will be on takeout, but the experience — regardless of how short or long it may be — is meant to be worthwhile. Jones aims to pilot such efforts: he has made building relationships and the customer experience his primary goal.
“I’m really excited to develop a relationship with regulars,” Jones says. “That was something that was really fun about working at the shop in Colorado… It makes it a really fun environment. Building those relationships with your guests is just something you can’t do in a market setting.”
Though some regulars have already started to follow the shop from market to market, The Bagelry will kick their relationship-building into high gear this weekend — perfect timing for Huff’s and Davren’s first bagel Saturday at their new shop.
The Bagelry is located at 1401 Walnut St., Over-the-Rhine. Hours are 7 a.m.-2 p.m. daily. More info: otrbagelry.com.