Let the bagel rivalry begin.
Three years ago, Denver landed a New York-style bagel shop when New Jersey native Joshua Pollack opened Rosenberg’s Bagels & Delicatessen in Five Points.
Now Canadian native David Bowen is bringing Montreal-Style bagels to Denver, when Woodgrain Bagels opens in Lowry in the fall. Woodgrain opened its first shop in Boulder earlier this year.
Originally from Toronto, Bowen, 53, came to Denver 18 months ago for his wife’s job. He said he liked the Front Range’s fast casual sector and outdoorsy, health-conscious culture.
“To be born here is a good thing,” Bowen said. “It’s very on-brand for Woodgrain.”
The shop signed a lease Friday for a 1,600-square-foot space, the former Lucky Cat urban Chinese restaurant in Hanger 2, which owned by City Street Investors and managed by Larimer Associates.
The Lowry store will be designed by Seattle-based Graham BaBa Architects – the same designer of the store’s first location. Bowen is still looking for a contractor.
Woodgrain will serve Montreal-style bagels, which are smaller, denser and sweeter than New York-style bagels. They are boiled in honey water and baked in a wood-fired oven. The company uses a Wood Stone oven from Seattle that will be the focal point of the Lowery store, Bowen said.
“That’s the theater of the brand: the big wood fire oven.”.
The Lowry store also will serve bagel sandwiches, wine, beer and coffee drinks, like the campfire latte – served with a roasted marshmallow.
Bowen previously worked as executive director of Urban Outfitter’s food service and owned two restaurants in Toronto for six years, a modern Asian restaurant and a French restaurant. Both are now closed.
“I’ve been stung by fine dining,” Bowen said. “I spent a fortune on making the best customer experience and got ripped by critical guests.”
But he said his fine-dining background helped plan for Woodgrain.
“I wanted to make sure everything was authentic – the branding, interior, music, smell,” he said. “I’ve checked every emotional box.”
Bowen got the idea to open a bagel restaurant because he said they don’t go out of style.
“No one really gets sick of bagels,” he said.
Montreal-style bagels in particular have a strong following, according to Bowen.
“People will travel miles for a Montreal-style bagel,” he said, adding that the Boulder location sells about 1,000 per day. A basic bagel with plain cream cheese cost $3, or $4 for flavored varieties.
Bowen said Woodgrain is looking for a location in RiNo that would open by spring.
He is using personal funds and a small business loan from Mutual of Omaha to fund the expansion. Each location will cost about $500,000 to open.
“It’s a gamble. I’m willing to take that gamble,” he said. “It has to work. I’ve got so much in it, it can’t not work.”