Towson Hot Bagels expands across Maryland
By: Sophia Naughton, Staff writer
Photo courtesy of Sophia Naughton
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Towson Hot Bagels (THB) continued their expansion across the Maryland area, with two new locations in Owings Mills and Columbia.
Tony Scotto, the CEO of THB, said the company faced many setbacks as they planned to open. Owings Mills opened in June 2021 and Columbia opened in November 2020 before vaccines were available.
“It was a period of time where everybody was scared, there was a lot of unknown,” Scotto said.
All of the furniture for the new locations was made in Italy. Scotto said the shipments were affected, as were many for other businesses, by the ship that was stuck in the Suez Canal in March 2021.
Another challenge that THB faced was hiring new employees. Scotto said they had to come up with a new hiring strategy where, not only did they promote the benefits of the job, but the safety of the job to entice new hires. The initial four locations’ 120 employees motivated Scotto’s emphasis on safety.
“We said if we close, it means 120 people with problems in their family,” said Scotto. “We got to see what we can do and work with for the safety of employees.We serve a lot of customers and the last thing that we want is to be dangerous.”
Sun Jang worked as the assistant general manager of the Timonium location for about two and a half years. Jang said his location was chosen to train new employees because they had consistently high standards for the company.
“When Columbia and Owings Mills opened up it was just a constant stream of new people coming in,” said Jang. “It was a little bit of a rough patch to start with, but we all got together and we worked through.”
According to Jang, success was ensured at the new locations because of how THB stands apart from other restaurants. It is one of the few places that specializes in breakfast.
“You can go to McDonald’s, you can go to Burger King, you can go to really any place but THB wants to be known for having consistently good quality products for breakfast as early as 6 a.m. in the morning and so that’s why a lot of people are in love with our products,” Jang said.
Jang describes the work environment at THB as a family. He said one of THB’s goals is to positively impact every customer by the time they leave the store.
“We always make sure that everyone who comes in leaves in a better mood, that is one of our core values,” said Jang. “Everyone feels, you know, happy so they associate that happiness with THB.”
“You can tell that they put love into their bagels,” Nick Birckner, a sophomore business major at Towson and a frequent customer of THB said. “It’s a place that a lot of people go to on the weekends, in the mornings to have time with their family.”
Scotto said Towson University students provide THB with customers coming from all over the state. They were always getting requests to open new locations in different areas beyond the four stores including Columbia.
“When we opened it was really rewarding because we could see a lot of loyal customers that used to drive to our stores say, ‘finally you are here, I don’t have to drive to Towson, I don’t have to drive to Canton,” said Scotto.
Usually, opening ceremonies are met with celebration from THB staff and the communities involved, but when opening Columbia and Owings Mills, it was mostly digital and physically distant. The app was a key part in the opening process. Scotto said it really provides a contactless experience.
“We definitely had more people coming to one opening than the other,” said Scotto. “The Columbia one, it was six feet apart, and even with the Ribbon cutting, we had to keep six feet apart.”
Scotto plans to continue expanding. He said there are a lot of requests for new locations, but no plans taking form right now. Some requests include Annapolis, White Marsh, Bel Air and College Park.
The company’s long term plans are to consider moving out of Maryland, said Scotto. For customers out of state, THB started shipping their bagels nationwide last year.
“There are opportunities out there and it’s something we are evaluating,” said Scotto. “The pandemic put on pause some of the growing projects that we had, but definitely we can see those coming back.”
THB is currently working to remodel Towson, Timonium, Canton and Charles Village. All of the stores will provide a cohesive interior and experience. THB is also relaunching their app.
Sara Mandreja, a senior psychology major at Towson University, said THB brings people together in the Towson community.
“I am very excited to hear about the remodeling,” said Mandreja. “I’m hoping to see bright colors all around to set a peaceful, happy environment, as well as colorful couches where people can eat and relax.”
“Are we done yet?” said Scotto. “No, I mean our goals are to open more stores. But our goals to open more stores and still give the same quality? I would like to think so.”
Click here to read more about THB.
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