Two Friends Create a Booming Bagel Business
By Susan Marquez
Originally published in the Dec/Jan 2021 issue of eat.drink.MISSISSIPPI
In the Mississippi Delta town of Cleveland, an unlikely duo met and formed a business based on their desire to benefit their community.
Marisol Doyle is originally from Mexico and came to the Delta with her husband, a photographer named Rory. The couple moved to Cleveland from Phoenix, Arizona in 2009 when Rory received a graduate assistantship at Delta State University. Kate Gluckman also moved to Cleveland with her husband, Mike, who accepted a position as a professor at Delta State in 2013. “We became friends instantly when we met,” says Marisol. “We eventually worked together at Mosquito Burrito in Cleveland.”
As their friendship grew, the two women dreamed of having a business together that would benefit the community. In 2016, the friends began making bagels and selling them at the Cleveland Farmers’ Market. The bagels were a hit, and Big River Bagels was born. “Kate was the one who inspired our bagel journey,” says Marisol, “She is a great baker and had been doing bagels for months. She’s a foodie, like me, and thought it would be a great idea to sell them at the farmers’ market in Cleveland. We tested recipes for months before we found one we both liked.” Big River Bagels offers many different flavors, but the best sellers are always the plain bagels and the everything bagels, which have poppy seeds, sesame seeds, salt, garlic and onion. “People buy them by the dozen,” says Marisol.
The farmers’ market was only open in the summer, but after selling their bagels for a couple of summers, people wanted to place orders for bagels during the rest of the year. “That’s when we decided to make this a year-round business,” says Kate.
The bagel-makers used a restaurant kitchen in Cleveland, but they soon outgrew that. Needing to find a more permanent place, Kate learned about Griot Arts in Clarksdale through her community outreach. The organization’s mission is to empower young people in Clarksdale to create positive change in their lives and in the community by providing access to opportunities in the arts, education and workforce development.
“We started serving our bagels in the coffee shop they run, Meraki Roasting Company,” Kate says. That has now expanded to offering breakfast sandwiches at Meraki on the weekends. “We are also selling our bagels at farmers’ markets in Clarksdale, Cleveland and Lyon. We are continuing to grow as we celebrate the wonderful Delta communities we love!”
Big River Bagels can be special ordered. “We encourage people to follow us on Facebook or Instagram,” says Marisol. “They can see our menu and private message us, or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
All accompanying article photographs courtesy of Rory Doyle. More of his work can be found at rorydoylephoto.com.