In early 2020, while Niki Hetchkop was cooped up at home avoiding the pandemic, she decided to try her hand at bagel-making. She wanted something comforting to give family and friends during this difficult time. She’d made challah in college—how different could it be?
After making a “decent” first homemade bagel, Hetchkop “became obsessed with wanting to perfect the craft,” she says. Being that her parents both grew up in New York and she lived there for several years as a young professional, Hetchkop focused on boiled and baked bagels made with simple ingredients and heavily seeded—the way she likes to eat them. Word of her bagels spread and soon families of friends’ parents were calling asking how they could purchase them.
Once she realized the demand, Hetchkop began cold-calling admired bagel shops around the country and begging for advice. Friends participated in blind taste tests to help perfect her recipes. Thanks to a grant from the Jewish Federation of Atlanta, she was able to design and purchase a custom mobile cart with a refrigerated space for cream cheese, as well as compartments for bagels. She rented space at a commercial kitchen, and Beeline Bagels was born.
“I love the word ‘beeline’ because nothing gets in the way of you and something you really want. I am beelining to the customer, and they are beelining to me,” she says.
In the next two months, Beeline Bagels will begin selling in Inman Park (where Hetchkop lives) near the BeltLine on Friday and Sunday mornings. Her cart’s location will be posted on her website and to Instagram (@beelinebagels) daily. She’ll also offer catering and plans to participate in local events.
The Beeline cart will be stocked with sesame, poppy, salt, everything, plain, and cinnamon raisin bagels, plus whipped, scallion, veggie, and strawberry and honey smash cream cheese. The bagels are “rip ‘n’ dip” style, meaning they are designed to be torn into bite-sized pieces and dipped into cream cheese, rather than sliced and schmeared.
“I’ve done ripping and dipping in my kitchen for years. This avoids the dilemma of having too much or too little [cream cheese], so everyone can have their personal favorite bite,” she says. “Plus, it omits the need for schmearing onsite. Schmearing onsite requires a different license and demands a different cart with sinks attached that wouldn’t be as nimble.”
Additionally, rip ‘n’ dip allows for the sale of cream cheese flights, encouraging customers to try more than one flavor. As Beeline’s tagline says, it’s “bagels and schmear without the schlep.”
“I wanted to pay homage to my Jewish heritage,” Hetchkop says about her choice to use the Yiddish for spread and hassle, respectively. “I also think it’s a fun word to talk about. It’s a conversation starter for those who don’t know.”
For now, Beeline Bagels is a one-woman business, but Hetchkop hopes to grow it to employ individuals with special needs, like her younger sister.
“I see the importance of creating jobs for those with special needs,” she says. “Not only to have a successful bagel shop but to do some good—that’s my dream.”