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At Howdy Bagel’s first shop opening, community is important

Walking into queer-founded Howdy Bagel before its opening day is to be embraced by a feeling of warmth. There exists a vibe of care one might seek during uncertain times. It is here that homeliness is unconditional.

The Tacoma shop’s Southern style hospitality is unique, closely resembling a connection someone would feel within a tight knit family dynamic. However, it is through community that Howdy Bagel becomes a place of love. The evidence lies not only in the old country aesthetic, the abundance of branded merch displaying a cheeky masculine cowboy lounging through a bagel, or the music bringing a sense of home to anyone who enters, but also in the magnetic essence that lies within the energy and closeness that husbands and co-founders Jake Carter and Daniel Blagovich aspire to instill through their new storefront.

JayAre Quezada | The Seattle Collegian Jake and Daniel.

“We’ve fallen in love with Tacoma so much more by being here,” Carter says of the city. The two of them recount their upbringing in conservative environments. By not being provided spaces where freedom of expression was prioritized, they both agreed that their new brick and mortar location must be incorporated with the intention of queer joy and the freedom to unapologetically exist.

When starting Howdy Bagel, the intent was to be a welcoming place for everyone. “We want [everyone], no matter who walks in here, to feel like they’re a part of our community. And that we’re all looking out for each other and all in it together,” says Carter.

The impression also lies within the name of the shop. Carter explains, “The name itself is meant to be silly, welcoming, and warm. It’s not meant to be stuffy or highbrow. It’s meant to be a hug kind of culture.”

In 2020, through a series of layoffs during the height of the pandemic, the two of them began to produce homemade bagels for friends and family. The process soon turned into farmers markets and business pop-ups, while also beginning bagel subscriptions where customers were delivered products. This marked the beginning of what would become Howdy Bagel.

JayAre Quezada | The Seattle Collegian Howdy Bagel’s menu.

After facing success through local support, the duo decided it was time to open a physical storefront. On Nov. 14, 2022, their Kickstarter to help fund the buildout for the shop went live. With a goal of $40,000, the campaign managed to reach its goal, even earning an extra few thousand within one month of its launch.

An important factor, Blagovich recounts, is that “before we had a brick and mortar, we were just [a] pop-up based in farmers markets. So we’ve made a lot of cool connections with other companies here in Tacoma who have hosted us for pop-ups.” Howdy Bagel’s organic growth has allowed them to gain local support from businesses who have had similar beginnings.

With appearances at places like The Mule Tavern, Field Bar, and Jin Jin, the team feels heavily supported and openly welcomed. That sense of appreciation flows through Carter as he proclaims that those who have also aspired to open welcoming spaces are “people who want to make the world a little brighter.”

With the importance of hospitality that comes with opening a welcoming space, the team also acknowledges that one vital aspect of the environment is to provide accessibility through resources; to uplift voices, especially those facing disparity within the restaurant industry, while also being mindful about the positions the two find themselves in.

JayAre Quezada | The Seattle Collegian Y’all means all!

Another experience, learned through development of the physical space, is how much local voting affects different districts within the county. When having to wait for different inspections in the space, the team realized that factors like permit fees varied depending on the district. The experience, as strenuous as it was, allowed Carter and Blagovich to realize how important it is for the community to engage in local voting.

“We can get so caught up in big, big elections in the United States,” Carter says, “that we forget our own little community, and where we live is obviously where we interact with on a daily basis. Whether it’s for private residence, for a restaurant, or filing a certain whatever it might be. We don’t realize how much these different things are affecting our community.”

As the duo and their staff have been gearing up for opening day, the couple anticipate their bright new beginnings for not only themselves, but also the people around them. 

“I’m looking forward to just getting our systems down and becoming kind of a well oiled machine where we can come up with more creative things to use the space for,” says Blagovich, insisting that they’d like to see collaborative space usage for music, social gatherings, and even shows that will allow the community a place to gather.

“You can utilize the space and have community,” Carter says. “I think I’m just excited to be a space, like we’ve been talking about. To look around and see people happy and excited to be in a place that feels safe and welcoming.”

There is a bright gleam of togetherness for the team and the community that they are endlessly grateful for. Doors for Howdy Bagel open May 30. 

They are located at 5421 S. Tacoma Way in Tacoma.

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