Bear’s Cup Cafe in Bolton Landing serves great bagels – from NJ

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Danielle DeSantis says she and her husband have differentiated between bad, good and good bagels all of their lives. A statement like this is usually taken with a grain of salt (or maybe a handful of sesame seeds).

But with strong ties to New Jersey and New York, the couple and the owners of Bear’s Cup Cafe in Bolton Landing, NY, have the resume to back it up.

Danielle grew up in Oakland and her husband, Louis, grew up on Long Island. After starting dating in 2010, the couple spent more than a decade in New York City.

“We lived above an amazing bagel store in Astoria, Queens that inspired us every day,” says DeSantis. “We have always been impressed with the quality and consistency of the bagels and the volume of sales they would accumulate.”

In high school, Danielle’s parents owned the Valley Pub in Oakland, where she got her first job as a waitress. After realizing college wasn’t for her, Danielle worked for Hillstone Restaurant Group in New York City, where she completed most of her restaurant and hospitality training. She then pursued her dream of becoming a professional singer. “I supported myself with singing and concerts for over 10 years,” she says.

Louis graduated from university with a double major in business economics and finance before working for 13 years in the finance industry.

The couple married in 2017 and a year later they decided they were ready for a change. “We’ve always had this dream of being business owners together,” says DeSantis. “After getting pregnant in 2018, we decided, let’s go! The couple moved to the upstate and opened the Bear’s Cup. “We are both very passionate, versatile and determined personalities,” says Danielle. “I’m outgoing and bubbly, where Louis is more introverted, which is great because we balance ourselves out.”

We recently caught up with Danielle to talk about her Jersey roots, naming a sandwich after our favorite area code and how a scream on the Rachael Ray Show has made the Bear’s Cup cafe busier than ever.

What made you want to open a café in upstate New York?

We have spent many weekends at Bolton Landing visiting my parents and enjoying their current restaurant, The Huddle and Lake George. We wanted to work hard and provide great quality bagels and coffee in the upstate as this was something Bolton Landing lacked. I had a dream of crossing town and going down to the lake with an iced coffee in hand, and there really was no way to do that until I opened the Bear’s Cup.

We chose upstate New York because my family’s restaurant is on the same street. We could not have done without their support. We also fell in love with the magical summer atmosphere on Lake George. There really is no such thing.

How does it work with your husband?

An assortment of bagels from the Bear's Cup Café in Bolton Landing, NY

Unbelievable. He’s the most hard-working, impressive, and honest person I know, and he scares me every day with his work ethic and inhuman knowledge. He spends a lot of time learning and researching products, recipes and techniques, and he never compromises on quality. I respect that so much. I think we are a very good match because we have opposing forces in the business. I’m mostly in front of the house, he’s behind the house, and we wouldn’t trade working together for anything.

What does a typical day of your week look like?

On weekends, don’t talk to us, because we get slammed in the store. On weekdays we usually have at least one day off when the store is closed, and we’ll be taking our son, Teddy, to the park or other cute family thing to do.

Louis works a lot at night, so it can be difficult to find quality time together on working days. Owning your own business is no joke to begin with. Once you add our opposing schedules, it’s hard, but we love what we do and we are building something that we wholeheartedly believe in for the future of our family.

How has New Jersey influenced your coffee?

Bear's Cup Café Sesame Bagel in Bolton Landing, NY

I grew up eating the best bagels around. I would say New Jersey has better bagels than Long Island and many other parts of New York. As for the vibe, I grew up frequenting trendy little towns and cities like Ridgewood and Wyckoff, and I knew I wanted that same modern feel.

Tell me about the “Le 201” sandwich.

The sandwich

The “201” is a nod to the area code of my hometown. It’s two fried eggs, two slices of Taylor ham, and melted cheddar cheese on your choice of bagel (pro tip: get it on a bagel of everything). I grew up receiving ham, egg and Taylor cheese sandwiches (that should be said in one word) at Krauszer’s food stores in Oakland a few mornings every week.

How did you first meet Rachel Ray?

Rachel Ray grew up nearby and mentioned having a connection to Bolton Landing. We think she was going out of her way to support a new local business when she first tried our bagels and pastries. Turns out she loved everything and quickly became a loyal customer. We had been preparing orders for her at least once a week for over a year when she first mentioned us on her show. All of a sudden calls and emails started coming in like wildfire and we were wondering what was going on. When we realized she had mentioned us on her show, we were very grateful for the scream. A few days later, she asked Louis and I to be on the show to personally show off some bagel tips and tricks. It was pretty cool too.

What are some of the things that you miss in Bergen County?

We go back to visit Bergen County a few times a year because I still have my O’Keefe side of the family that lives there. I miss Houston’s at The Shops at Riverside (I worked there for three years), Loehmann’s on Route 4 (closed now, but they still have the best deals) and Sushi Cocoro Japanese Restaurant (for the best spicy tuna roll) . There is also a lot of nostalgia attached to Oakland and Bergen County. I miss the funny memories of my childhood at Heights Elementary School, Valley Middle School, and Indian Hills High School. Walk into town after a day at college to Mandee Women’s Store, go to the movies with friends in Wayne or Kinnelon, Hot Bagels or Krauszers for a pre-school coffee and breakfast sandwich, eat at Pompton Queen Dinner at 3 in the morning and McDonald’s and Starbucks at Boulder Run in Wyckoff after school in high school. It was just a great place to grow up, and I still think it’s a great place to raise kids.

Get to know Danielle DeSantis

  • 32 years old
  • Raised in Oakland
  • Currently lives in Bolton Landing, NY
  • Where can we find you online? Instagram: @danielledesantis, @bearscupbolton; Web: bearscupbolton.com
  • Future aspirations: building a bagel empire


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