New Bagel Business Becoming Talk of the Town
Local bagel company, Lil’s Bagels, is quickly gaining a cult-like following across Northern Kentucky after officially launching in January of this year. Last week, The River City News sat down with Julia Keister, owner and founder of Lil’s Bagels, to discuss how the company was born, where you can find Lil’s Bagels today, and the business’ plans to expand delivery (and open a storefront!) in the future.
RCN: How did Lil's Bagels get its start?
Keister: Lil's started out of a pure addiction to bagels. Hannah Lowen, my partner in everything, and I both grew up with Jewish roots that were not very religious, but very serious about eating good bagels. In my family, we ate bagels at least every Sunday with lox and cream cheese, and still have them any time I visit my mom.
Hannah and I met in New York, the mecca of good bagels, where I lived for many years. When we moved here, we were feigning for bagels in a desperate way so we just started making them. It took about a year to perfect the recipe and one day we had our friend Julia Fischer over for some bagels and she said, "You should sell these!" So we did. We named Lil's after my Bubbe and Hannah's great aunt, both of whom were named Lillian and were bagel experts. I have always loved to cook, so whenever I get to make bagels it just feels like a break from real life and my other four jobs. It really is delicious dream come true.
RCN: How big is your team? Where are the bagels being produced and how often are you producing and delivering bagels?
Keister: Lil's is a mighty team of two for right now. I am the dough kneader, bagel boiler/baker, and delivery service. Hannah is the business and money person. I make the bagels at New Riff Distillery, in their commercial catering kitchen, which is crazy amazing. Every bagel is hand kneaded, rolled, boiled, and baked with "chutzpah" each time. Right now, I am there prepping the bagels on Thursdays and boiling/baking them on Fridays and Saturdays. Lil's will definitely need to hire someone in the near future and I am planning on interviewing some of the students I teach at The Point for the job.
Most of our deliveries take place on Fridays, but we take orders for Saturdays and Sundays if people have events, meetings, or just a family brunch they need bagels for.
RCN: Where are Lil's Bagels sold currently?
Keister: Lil's Bagels are sold every Friday (7am-12pm) and Saturday (8am-12pm) at The Point Perk on Pike Street in Covington. We also will be selling bagels in dozens, singles and specialty sandwiches at the Covington Farmers Market starting in May, which we are pumped about. You can also find Lil's at our various pop-ups, which people can be in-the-know about by following us on Instagram and Facebook. The next pop-up will be at Carabello Coffee in Newport on April 8 and 9. We are also really excited about our Mother's Day Boozy Brunch, which is happening at Braxton Brewery on Sunday, May 8. At the brunch, you will get to build your own Lil's bagel sandwich with tons of spreads and toppings and the Braxton crew will be serving some "beermosas" to wash it down.
RCN: When did you launch a delivery service and how did you select your delivery destinations?
Keister: Lil's started selling bagels at Point Perk in January and launched our Covington delivery service on March 26th. Businesses were picked basically based on community connections and voiced interest. We are starting with delivery in Covington because we love the Cov and want to make sure they get their bagel fix. New delivery spots are welcome, we hope to get bagels to whoever needs them.
RCN: How can other NKY businesses get on your delivery route?
Keister: Lil's would love to add any and every Covington, Newport, Bellevue, Ludlow, and Downtown Cincinnati business to our route. If people are interested, they can email us at [email protected] and we will send you a link to our order form.
RCN: Have you partnered with any other local businesses along the way?
Kesiter: Yes! First and foremost, New Riff, who has opened up their kitchen space to us and is an awesome community anchor. Then, we couldn't look so “schmancy” without the help of Durham Brand & Co., who helped with our logo and branding. Also, there are the small businesses like Point Perk, Carabello, and Braxton who want to take a chance on selling Lil's with all the other delicious baked goods out there. And of course all the bagel eaters and fellow addicts, who get the need for a good bagel.
Honestly, I would say the whole city of Covington has been so supportive and motivating. Covington is a place for makers. Actually, a women named Cal Cullen is making a book that Lil's is featured in all about the Westside Makers of Covington. She won a Creative Community Grant from the Center for Great Neighborhoods to put it together and it's going to be awesome. Lastly, I want to thank my little wagon, which is helping me get bagels up and down Pike Street while bumping some tunes.
RCN: What is the future of Lil's Bagels?
Keister: As long as people want bagels, we will keep on making them. We plan to do the wholesale thing until we make enough green to open a shop here in Covington. We hope to launch a Kickstarter in the next month to raise money for things like a bigger mixer and supplies because I run three Kitchen Aids at a time to make the dough right now. Everyday someone tells us they had Lil's Bagels or that they can't wait to try them, so I think a storefront is not too far away.
RCN: Where can people find more info on Lil's Bagels?
Keister: You can find more info on the Lil's Bagels Facebook and Instagram pages, soon at lilsbagels.com, by visiting Lil's at the Covington Farmers Market, or by just chatting it up with the bagel meister rolling the Lil's Bagel cart down Pike Street every Friday.
- Staff report/Photos provided