Jersey Girl Bagels brings an authentic NJ experience to Bradenton

BRADENTON, FL – Bagels are a way of life in New Jersey.

“It’s been so part of your culture growing up in New York and New Jersey,” Kim Fishman told Patch. “It’s part of your childhood. Bagels. Pizza. Pork wraps.”

When she and her husband moved with their family to Lakewood Ranch more than five years ago, she was disappointed — but not surprised — that she couldn’t find an authentic NJ or NY bagel.

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“We were told you can’t make bagels in Florida because of the water, the humidity,” she said. “There are a lot of small challenges.”

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Fishman was determined to figure it out — and she did.

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Two years later, she turned her pandemic hobby into a business, opening Bagels Jersey Girl at 5275 University Parkway in February.

It was important to her to master the process of creating an authentic bagel.

“There’s nostalgia about bagels that people who aren’t from New York or New Jersey don’t understand,” Fishman said. “Growing up, it was weekend food. It was my vision. It’s Saturday morning and you get a dozen bagels for your family or you have a hot egg and cheese (bagel) sandwich. “

So she and her children started making them from scratch in their kitchen.

“There are a million different recipes and different filters for water, and water temperature is a huge thing,” she said.

When Fishman finally got the recipe right, she started making some for her friends. And with many places closed due to the coronavirus in 2020, word of her bagels spread and she started taking orders for neighbors and friends of friends.

“It became this small, small, home-based business. It kept growing and growing, and it outgrew my kitchen and my capacity,” she said. “I needed more oven space and storage. I either had to keep doing it more or stop doing it.”

She had three fridges in her house just for bagels and it wasn’t long before she was using a neighbor’s extra fridge in her garage as well.

Fishman considered various possibilities for growing Jersey Girl Bagels, including opening a food truck or a ghost kitchen. Eventually, she took the plunge and opened a small bagel shop, signing the lease for her new space in March 2021.

As much as COVID-19 inspired her business, it also created challenges as she prepared to open a physical location, she said. “COVID is the reason for the business and also for all the difficulties that come with opening the business. It’s been a double-edged sword.”

Although she ordered all the equipment she needed last May, not everything was immediately available. Fishman is still waiting for a few small parts that won’t be available until April.

Construction of her store was also delayed as contractors dealt with various “COVID hiccups”, she said.

And that she baked bagels on such a scale — making thousands a day — she needed to polish her process.

Instead of small, hand-made batches, she suddenly found herself working with a mixer that can handle 85 pounds of flour at a time and create 130 pounds of dough a day.

“Going from small batch to mass production is definitely an adjustment. The recipe needed to be adjusted a bit. The timing needs to be adjusted a bit,” Fishman said.

Quality control is also more of an issue now. Rather than roll the bagels by hand, she has a machine to do it for her.

“I have a love-hate relationship with the machine,” she said. “It allows me to make so many bagels at once, but they don’t all look the same. They look different and I have to sort them. At home, in small batches, I touch each bagel. I know what each looks like.”

Customers are always fascinated by his bagel making process.

“Probably because it’s so hard to make them in Florida,” she said.

Although she doesn’t import water from New York, she installed a filtration system that softens the water from the bagel shop so it’s similar to what she might use up north.

The temperature of the water she uses is also critical and needs to be a bit colder than what would normally come out of the tap in Florida, she said. “Dough is tough. You have to have a certain water temperature, a certain dough temperature, and the humidity doesn’t help matters – and we have a lot of humidity.”

Once the dough is prepared, it boils and bakes the bagels.

“Those are the two questions we get – water and the other do you boil it,” Fishman said.

Since the opening on February 17, Bagels Jersey Girl has been busy, often selling bagels. On average, she sells about 2,000 a day.

Without seats for customers, “it’s really an old-fashioned bagel shop,” she said. “You go to a bagel shop, walk in, choose what you want, and go. At this point, I’m keeping it simple.”

So far, it matches his personal vision for the store, something that speaks to his childhood in New Jersey.

“It’s something that I personally have always missed coming here and being here, and I didn’t realize how much everyone felt the same way about each other,” Fishman said. “Just the little corner bagel shop. Nothing fancy, just that it’s good. Where you can walk in, have a hot bagel with your favorite cream cheese, and eat it at home or in your car or elsewhere.”

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