Schmear Campaign: How Bagel Art has fared during the pandemic

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Audrey Hettleman/The Daily Northwestern

A barista prepares a patron’s coffee while other workers prepare bagels.

Audrey Hettleman, Reporter

Even through a cloth mask, the comforting aroma of baked goods and freshly ground coffee will greet you when you open the door to Bagel Art Cafe.

Co-owners Vince and Whitney Doyle bought the cafe on Dempster St. in 2014 and are its third owners since the cafe’s founding in 1996. Throughout the pandemic, Vince said the couple has relied on both the local community and their 10-person staff for support.

“We’ve been really grateful for the support of our community and our team,” Vince Doyle said.

According to Whitney Doyle, one of the biggest impacts the pandemic has had on Bagel Art is the loss of catering gigs, which had previously brought consistent money into the cafe. The lack of student presence in the city has also been hard on the business, but she said she is looking forward to having a regular student presence in the shop again.

“Even during COVID (students) still come out; they’ve made the trek walking, driving, biking, whatever,” Vince Doyle said. “Whenever they’re back, we’ll be grateful to have them back but still I feel like the … few students who are able to make it out have still been there supporting me.”

Bagel Art was a staple for Evanston resident and recent Evanston Township High School graduate Megan Mulvihill’s childhood. When she was a high school junior, she ate every lunch at the cafe. Her current go-to order is a “loxocado” sandwich (sesame bagel with cream cheese, avocado and lox), a step up from her childhood favorite plain bagel with cream cheese.

Although she hasn’t been able to make the trek to Dempster Street quite as often amid the pandemic, Mulvihill, a freshman at Columbia College Chicago, said she’s grateful she has still been able to pop into Bagel Art once in a while while she takes classes at home this quarter.

“It makes me feel prideful because I feel like in Evanston it’s kind of ‘North versus South,’” Mulvihill said. “North people are always like, ‘we have all the shops.’ And so many people that go to ETHS live on the north side of Evanston. So I feel like Bagel Art was kind of my special place.’”

Currently, Evanston restaurants can operate indoors at 25 percent capacity. However, it is still uncertain when businesses will be able to fully resume indoor dining.

ETHS graduate Sofie Kennedy said seeing local businesses close throughout Evanston has been challenging, but she has tried to support them by eating locally as much as possible.

“Evanston is predominantly restaurants and food places so it’s really weird to see them shut down and it’s sad, because lots of them have been here for a while,” Kennedy, a Weinberg freshman, said. “Panera, I think, was here since I was born.”

Bagel Art has employed other strategies to attract new customers and give back to the community since the start of the pandemic. Vince and Whitney Doyle have introduced delivery options through services like Grubhub and Doordash, as well as sales like $1 coffees promoted through social media.

As students return to campus and more people receive the vaccine, Vince Doyle said he expects his customer base to grow. For the first-time visitors he hopes to meet in the near future, Vince Doyle recommends a classic: the lox sandwich.

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Twitter: @AudreyHettleman

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