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Tandem Bagel Co. creating a buzz in Easthampton

  • Co-owner Andrea Zawacki, left, Hannah Levy and Lindsey Swiderski, right, help customers Wednesday morning at Tandem Bagel Company in Easthampton.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Co-owner Andrea Zawacki, left, Hannah Levy and Lindsey Swiderski, right, help customers Wednesday morning at Tandem Bagel Company in Easthampton.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Co-owner Brian Greenwood, left, and Holyoke Community College student Tom Young of Easthampton make bagels in the kitchen of Tandem Bagel Company in Easthampton on Wednesday. <br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Co-owner Brian Greenwood, left, and Holyoke Community College student Tom Young of Easthampton make bagels in the kitchen of Tandem Bagel Company in Easthampton on Wednesday.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Customers enter Tandem Bagel Company in Easthampton on Wednesday morning. <br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Customers enter Tandem Bagel Company in Easthampton on Wednesday morning.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Co-owner Andrea Zawacki, left, Hannah Levy and Lindsey Swiderski, right, help customers Wednesday morning at Tandem Bagel Company in Easthampton.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Co-owner Brian Greenwood, left, and Holyoke Community College student Tom Young of Easthampton make bagels in the kitchen of Tandem Bagel Company in Easthampton on Wednesday. <br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Customers enter Tandem Bagel Company in Easthampton on Wednesday morning. <br/>KEVIN GUTTING

Little did they know how right they were.

Tandem Bagel Co. opened in a former rail station March 29 and then sold over 1,100 bagels the next day. Since then, the downtown shop has been attracting hungry customers from near and far with its fresh bagels, which include the usual flavors as well as non-traditional ones like peanut butter chocolate chip and Hot & Spicy, full of jalapenos and pepperjack cheese.

“There was a line out the door all the first weekend,” co-owner Andrea Zawacki, 43, said while working behind the counter at the bagelry last Tuesday.

“That was a pleasant surprise,” said another co-owner, Brian Greenwood, 48, while he was assembling tables and chairs for the small outdoor seating area. “We thought we must have done something right to get that kind of response.”

The shop is run by Brian and Shannon Greenwood and partners and longtime friends Andrea and Chris Zawacki in an 1871 railroad depot on Railroad Street. All four left their previous careers — the Greenwoods owned Greenwood Builders, Chris Zawacki was a mechanical engineer and Andrea Zawacki was a fitness instructor — to join forces to operate the bakery. Brian Greenwood said it is a “more than full-time” job, but they are all having fun with it.

The former train station, owned by The Williston Northampton School, has been an art studio for the last 43 years. Brian Greenwood started renovating the 2,700-square-foot building in August.

Now, the bright, high-ceilinged space has white brick walls and a historic fireplace. In addition to the commercial kitchen, there is seating for 50, a small patio with more outdoor seating, and a “pedal-up” window that allows customers passing by on the Manhan Rail Trail to grab a bite or an ice cream cone without getting off their bike or tying up their dog.

All the ingredients

The two couples have been dreaming of bagels for a little over a decade, since the Zawackis told the Greenwoods about Sunrise Bagels, a shop making homemade bagels near their then-home in Vancouver, Wash. The couples’ fantasy about opening a similar bagel bakery in Easthampton evolved over the years into an actual business plan, and when the former railroad depot became available for rent in July 2012, they knew it was the right spot.

But first, they had to learn the art of bagel-making from the bakery that inspired them. While renovations were ongoing, they all flew to Washington and got a lesson from the owner of Sunrise Bagels.

Chris Zawacki, 43, was reluctant to give up the secret to why Sunrise Bagels and Tandem’s bagels are so good. He did reveal that the process involves mixing the dough, using a machine called a “divider and former” to shape the dough into rings, and then the bagels are steamed and baked.

“People seem to like them, so that’s good,” he said. The recipes for all the bagels, including exotic ones like snickerdoodle and pesto, came from Sunrise Bagels, Zawacki said.

“We’ve seen some weird pairings, like an egg sandwich on a chocolate chip bagel,” Andrea Zawacki said.

She said the shop started with just bagels and then expanded to offer breakfast sandwiches a week later. This past week, they added soups and sandwiches to their lunch menu and started offering scoops of Bart’s Homemade Ice Cream, of Greenfield, at their pedal-up window on the Manhan Rail Trail.

“We thought a cold treat would be a positive addition to what’s going on on the bike path,” Shannon Greenwood, 48, said.

She said the business employs 15 part-time workers and they get additional help from all of the owners’ six teenage children — Devon, 18, Aidan, 16, and Tyler Greenwood, 13, and Cameron, 18, Cade, 16, and Molly Zawacki, 13.

All six are students at The Williston Northampton School and Chris Zawacki and Shannon Greenwood are alumni of the school.

Not surprisingly, due to the families’ connections to Williston and its proximity, a lot of their customers are from the private school.

Williston-Northampton School teachers Michelle Lawson and Logan Brown were the first customers to use the patio after Greenwood and an employee started assembling the wrought iron tables and chairs Tuesday afternoon.

“I literally work right across the street, so it’s great to come here for breakfast or between classes,” Brown said. “Everything I’ve had so far is amazing, everything from coffee and tea to bagels and breakfast sandwiches.”

The teachers enjoyed an afternoon snack in the sun and agreed that the bagel shop is just what the downtown needed. “It’s kind of a gathering place for kids, parents, colleagues and people from town,” Brown said. “I think it could be good for the town-gown relationship.”

Other customers are visiting not just for the food, but also to check out the historic rail station that has been mostly closed to the public for more than half a century. The Williston Northampton School bought the station when it shut down after World War II and used it as a maintenance building and then an art studio.

“A lot of people say they’ve been waiting to come see the inside of the building,” Andrea Zawacki said.

Greenwood said the renovations were extensive, from building the kitchen and a second-floor office above it, to knocking down an interior brick wall and installing all new windows.

“We really wanted to make sure we got it right,” he said.

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.

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