In 2020, pandemic entrepreneurs started millions of new businesses in the US. The months of lockdown provided the luxury of time, and for one local entrepreneur, the realization of a lifelong dream.
This summer, as pandemic life recedes, Britt Zavala is preparing to open Britt & Co Bagels, an upscale brick and mortar bagel and coffee shop on Railroad Ave, right across from the Greenwich Train Station.
This week, Zavala took a break from building high top tables out of vintage barrels to share the story that led up to her lease of the former Green & Tonic space.
Early in the pandemic, when Zavala and her family were at home, she applied for a cottage food license to make bagels in her home kitchen.
But her bagel story started long before 2020.
At the age of four, Zavala recalled being glued to Julia Child’s cooking show on TV.
“Mother and grandmother exposed us to fantastic food,” she added.
Soon she started cooking and dreaming of getting into the food business.
At 16, a job at a bagel shop in Larchmont was a turning point.
“They let me bring home the specialty flour and experiment with it,” she recalled.
Zavala said she wanted to come up with a way to put cream cheese inside a bagel so it wouldn’t squeeze out when sliced. That hatched the idea of the “bagel bomb,” bagels stuffed with, for example, bacon, egg & cheese, or sausage, egg & cheese.
Another of Zavala’s bagel bombs hides Nutella inside. After the filled bagel is kettle boiled, she finishes it with a glaze of honey butter and sprinkles it with powdered sugar.
The Big Daddy Danny bagel bomb is filled with butter soft scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese and fresh jalapeños.
“My husband knew when he met me, he saw my book of bagels and knew this is what I always wanted to do,” Zavala recalled.
During Covid in 2020, Zavala began making bagels for health care workers and first responders, which she delivered with handwritten notes of encouragement. She also made bagels for family and friends.
In response she would hear, ‘These are the best bagels we’ve ever had. How can we order them?’
In addition to her cottage kitchen license, some restaurants in Westchester that were closed during the pandemic let Zavala use their commercial kitchens. Customers ordered online for delivery or pick up at the pop-ups or at her home.
“The first month I made 8,000 bagels, and by month nine I reached over 80,000. And my husband did 1,200 miles a week in deliveries,” she recalled.
“The response was phenomenal,” she said, adding that her bagels were nominated Best of Westchester.
Ties to Westchester extend to a relationship with Brainwashed Coffee, a Port Chester-based business that donates 50% of proceeds to addiction recovery.
“The coffee is phenomenal,” Zavala said. “They have bagged coffee and pods for Kuerigs, and they just added nitro cans that we’ll carry too.”
When Britt & Co Bagels opens this summer in Greenwich, Zavala said classics – plain, sesame, everything, poppy and salt – will be made continuously in small batches. Specialty offerings will be rotated through the menu including sweet varieties like Oreo, PB&J Drizzle, and savory versions like Spicy Asiago, Cheddar & Carmelized Onion and Pepperoni Pizza.
And watch for the Baby Yoda bagels with green faces, pointy ears and dark eyes that Zavala said are as popular with adults as children.
The Cinnamon Roll bagel looks like a regular bagel on the outside, but there is a cinnamon swirl rolled into it.
There will also be a variety of specialty spreads and butters. Zavala rattles off a mouthwatering list: coffee honey butter, strawberry butter, wildflower honey butter, Mike’s Hot honey butter, coffee nutella butter and, just invented, a banana butter.
As if all these choices weren’t enough, Britt & Co will have a boba bar with both juice based and tea based boba drinks.
Zavala explained that the original version of boba, also known as bubble tea, was black tea with milk and sweetened chewy tapioca pearls.
“You get a big straw and the tapioca comes through, so you get that chewy goodness,” Zavala explained, adding that it can be made with oat milk, almond milk or flax seed milk for a vegan or non dairy option.
“Bagels and bobas just rolls off the tongue,” Zavala said.
For kombucha lovers, Zavala is teaming up with Cross Culture Kombucha who have a tap room and brewery in Danbury.
Zavala, who lives with her family in Byram, said as her store opening grows closer, she is honing in on the finer details of the customer experience. The shop will have an old fashioned aura featuring framed vintage black and white photos. Women on staff will have a uniform reminiscent of Rosie The Riveter, familiar from war effort posters. Men will wear soda jerk caps.
“The way they speak to and greet customers will be polite and formal, like the 1940s, for a classic, iconic experience,” she said. “Customers will be transported to another time, but with all this new age and modern food.”
Diane Roth, the listing agent for the property said she was delighted to have matched Zavala with the Railroad Ave location.
“Having someone that lives in our town share their talent is what make our community of businesses so interesting it adds the cool factor to Greenwich,” Roth said.
While the opening of Britt & Co is weeks away, those eager to try Zavala’s bagels will have an opportunity during the Chamber of Commerce’s sidewalk sales days, July 14-17.
Expect free samples and a specialty boba drink each day. Also, Zavala is working out the details of a digital punch card to reward people who come all four days and make a purchase.
Check out Britt & Co’s website.