The line outside Urban Pioneer Group (UPG) on Saturday morning, Sept. 21, was dozens of people long, a usual occurrence for the every-other-Saturday pop-up of The Daly Bagel. Amanda Daly’s bagels have become popular with Forest Parkers and fans from neighboring towns — so popular, in fact, that people arrive early to Madison Street, often with books or magazines, willing to wait half an hour or more for Daly’s chewy-yet-soft, freshly baked bagels.
Tom Kunkel, co-owner of UPG along with his wife Sheila, loves seeing the success of local businesses like Daly’s.
“Our platform is to help bring product to market,” said Kunkel. “We want to help keep the dream alive for people starting out.” He added that it brings him great satisfaction to assist businesses who are making products locally. He looks at UPG as a one-stop shop for people starting food-related enterprises who might not have a space to bake or cook.
“We built out our kitchen to allow people to make and sell on the premises,” said Kunkel. “Local businesses are what make this community. Amanda is an example of that.”
At first, Kunkel said, he was somewhat surprised to see the unexpectedly long line of customers who would show up a half-hour — or sometimes more — before the doors opened for bagel sales.
“It’s a testament to Amanda,” he said. “She’s the kind of person who brings other people together.”
“The community spoke,” he added, especially when, in the dead of winter, the lines never died down. “The community has a heart. And they know a good bagel.”
Oak Parker Mary Bunn was the first in line on Sept. 21. “Daly Bagels are awesome,” she said. Her favorite varieties are chocolate chip and blueberry, but she likes them all. She’s excited to see Daly’s new shop open because it’s just a few blocks from her house.
Mike Schiffer said he’s “not a morning person,” so it speaks to how good the bagels are that he’s up that early to wait in line. He likes the asiago bagels best, and he was a contributor to the Kickstarter fund Daly set up to raise money for the new store.
Daly, who says she’s always been an “avid amateur baker,” started thinking about bagels not long after the Bruegger’s Bagels shop on Lake Street in Oak Park closed down. Bagels were one of her son’s favorite foods, and he was devastated to not have fresh ones available anymore.
“For years, I’d see a need, and I’d say, ‘Somebody should open this kind of business or that kind of business,’” said Daly. “And then they would, and the business would do great. I’d told my family the next time I said that, they had to remind me it was my turn to do it.”
So when she said to her son, “Somebody should open a bagel shop in town,” her son Patrick said, “Mom, you should do it.”
For months Daly experimented, sometimes baking a hundred bagels every day, perfecting her recipe and process. Once she was happy with her product, she started bringing the bagels to events: school meetings, T-ball games, a local writing group. The feedback was inspirational, she said. “Everybody loved them.”
She started a Facebook group to share news about her bagels, and, under Oak Park’s Cupcake Law, she got a license to sell bagels out of her home. For her first bake, on Mother’s Day in 2018, she was prepared to bake 200 bagels. But before she had a chance to cut off ordering, customers had already requested over 400. She borrowed mixers and fridge space from family and neighbors, stayed up all night, and was still baking when people showed up the next morning to pick up their orders.
“That was an amazing night,” said Daly. “I was exhausted but so happy.”
The Oak Park resident currently uses a shared kitchen space at the Sugar Beet Schoolhouse in River Forest, where, she says, she’s “gained so much experience from the other caterers” who work there. “I’m so glad we started there.”
She sells out of Urban Pioneer Group and finds the Kunkels incredibly generous. “Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am now,” said Daly.
Daly has loved being involved in the Forest Park community. “Everyone’s so supportive here,” she said. “It’s such a tight-knit community.” Banking with Forest Park National Bank made her appreciate the small-town atmosphere even more. “I love them so much,” said Daly. “I understand what ‘community bank’ really means.”
Her last pop-up in Forest Park will be on Oct. 5 at 8:15 a.m. But get there early. It’s not unusual for the line to start forming at 7:30 a.m. And bagels usually sell out within an hour.
With the help of a Kickstarter and assistance from Forest Park National Bank, Daly is opening a store in November at 130 Chicago Ave. in Oak Park. She plans to sell her bagels, of course, as well as cream cheese and coffee. She’ll also feature breakfast and lunch sandwiches and desserts, which she’ll bake.
“Amanda represents quality with a smile,” said Kunkel. He expects her to bring those characteristics to her new store in November.