Coming soon: Amanda Daly shows off the future home of The Daly Bagel at the corner of Chicago and Lombard in northeast Oak Park. | Photo by Melissa Elsmo

New Jersey native, bagel connoisseur and Oak Park resident Amanda Daly managed to create a bagel-frenzy in our community over the past year. Now her dream of opening a bagel cafe called The Daly Bagel is drawing near.

By this summer, Daly plans to renovate, build-out and open a boutique bagel and coffee shop in northeast Oak Park. Long vacant, the former Zephyr Cleaners will house the new business at Chicago Avenue and Lombard. 

“A shop has always been the goal,” said Daly, “but I was shocked how hard it was to find the right sized space where a landlord was willing to have a kitchen on the premises.”

Thankfully, Greg Sorg, a local developer, reached out regarding the Zephyr building. The space, owned by Sorg, is conveniently located close to Daly’s Oak Park home and suits her space needs well. Living in the area makes Daly acutely aware of the need for a boutique cafe in the northeast corner of Oak Park and expects The Daly Bagel to appeal to both community residents and folks frequenting the nearby school and hospital.

Daly had settled on a space for her bagel shop, but still needed a bank loan. She put her MBA to good use, tweaked her business plan and began looking for a bank. 

“Forest Park Bank took a genuine interest in The Daly Bagel,” said Daly of her bank of choice. “I felt supported the second I walked through the door.”

With a storefront found and a bank loan secured, Daly moved onto selecting an architect for her build out. After considering four architects, she chose Brian Hammersley of Hammersley Architecture in Chicago. Hammersley’s reputation preceded him, as his firm designed both Oak Park’s Live Cafe and Sugar Beet Food Co-Op. Daly indicated Hammersley’s vision for The Daly Bagel lined up perfectly with hers and enthusiastically embraced the project.

The space in the Zephyr building will require a full build-out and Daly excitedly sketched a drawing of her intended layout. Her picture included banket seating, window ledge seating, and a large counter for placing orders and selecting bagels. She also drew a generously sized cafe kitchen. While the kitchen will not need a stove top, it will include powerful ovens, large boiling pots, racks, proofing boards, and an industrial dough-divider; she has already begun purchasing her kitchen equipment. The kitchen will likely feature a large viewing window making it easy for curious customers to observe the bagel making process.

Barring any unforeseen set-backs, Daly anticipates her boutique bagel shop will open in this summer. The shop will likely be opened from 6:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, but Daly and her team will rely on a soft opening to determine the optimal operating hours for the business.  In addition to offering bagels, smoked fish and cream cheese (of course), Daly intends to peddle an array of breakfast and lunch sandwiches as well as bagel dogs and pizza bagels. The regular menu at the shop will be small and thoughtful, but supplemented with rotating weekly specials to keep things fresh and interesting for regular customers. The Daly Bagel will also bring responsibly-sourced Dark Matter Coffee to Oak Park. 

“I dream The Daly Bagel will preserve the social aspect of bakeries,” said Daly. “I want it to be a beautiful place, a community asset, where people can bond over a shared food experience.”

It wasn’t long ago that Daly, who is not a trained cook, recognized a need for proper and locally available boil-and-bake East Coast bagels. She started experimenting with bagel-making and ultimately introduced her product to customers via in-home bagel bakes and more formal bakery pop-up events. 

While her duo of in-home bagel bakes were stressful and at times “disastrous” from a time-management perspective, demand for Daly Bagels quickly exceeded supply. Daly forged ahead and promptly moved her bagel production to the Sugar Beet Schoolhouse in River Forest. 

The shared community kitchen offered Daly the opportunity to more than double her production capacity; taking her yield on her twice monthly bake days from 400 to 850 bagels per day. Additionally, the community kitchen allowed her to bake an additional 300 to 500 special order bagels each week. But her bagels would still sell out in under 5 minutes.

 “I had to set an alarm on my phone to remind me to have lunch,” said Daly. “I never understood people who claimed to be so busy that they forgot to eat, but now I can totally relate.” 

After clearing her head on a long-planned vacation to France, Daly knew that accepting help in the kitchen was essential. Daly’s dear friend, Leah Garcia, offered up her services in the kitchen and she and Daly were soon joined by Adrienne Guldin, another friend of Daly’s. Guldin is an accomplished baker in her own right and has a background working in test kitchens

As a result of the added support and Guldin’s culinary background, The Daly Bagel, not only increased production, but began to innovate. New bagel flavors like gingerbread, garlic and herb, chai, and maple-bacon were added to the traditional arsenal of Daly Bagel flavors (plain, sesame, poppy, everything, sea salt, onion, garlic, pretzel, pumpernickel, asiago, cinnamon-sugar, kalamata-rosemary, and rainbow).

“Now, I just love going to work at 4 a.m. because I get to hang out with my friends making bagels,” said Daly.  “It is the absolute best!”

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