THUNDER BAY -- Long-time fans of Bagel Store may have been sorely disappointed when Thunder Bay’s only bagel shop disappeared from the mall, but it wasn’t too long before a new bakery popped up, specializing in Montreal-style bagels.
Co-owners Heather Mantis and Linzee Martin actually started out with pizza in the backyard. Martin had always been fascinated by cob ovens (a wood-fired outdoor oven made of straw and clay) and a couple of summers ago, the two decided to go ahead make one.
Impressed with the pizzas their DIY oven churned out, they started selling pizzas on Fridays and Sundays. One day she suggested baking bagels, just because she liked them. “So we did, and our friends were like, oh my God, you gotta sell these.” That was in the fall of 2016, and by February 2017, they had a table at the Thunder Bay Country Market.
It didn’t take long for Homeslice Bakery to become popular, and George’s and the Maltese started carrying their bagels.
From their backyard oven baking eight bagels at a time, they gradually ramped up production to a thousand bagels a week baked indoors in a gas oven.
They sell at the Thunder Bay Country Market on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and in addition to their “famous five” standard varieties (plain, three cheese, sesame, poppy seed, everything) they bake a rotating cast of special ones such as lemon dill, rye sesame, chocolate chip, strawberry basil, cranberry sage and best-seller Jalapeno cheddar. They have vegan bagels as well on Saturdays at the market.
Homeslice Bakery uses as much local ingredients as possible; all of their oil (canola) is from Brule Creek Farm and they get rye and partially sifted white flour from there as well. (Since bagels require a higher protein content, they mix the Brule Creek flour with strong white flour.) Sandy Acres bacon, Thunder Oak Gouda, Heartbeat hot sauce, Rose N Crantz coffee and St. Paul coffee are some other local brands that make regular appearances as well.
Martin is a red seal chef and Mantis has many years of food/baking industry experience. Currently, in addition to baking a thousand bagels a week, they both work full-time.
Mantis would like to open a café in the future, but for now, the two have their work cut out for them, hand-rolling and baking bagels three days a week. They will see how the future unfolds, because they know that the right path can open up for them even without planning everything in advance. “It was really kind of an accident,” Mantis laughs. “We didn’t set out to make bagels!”