AUGUSTA — There is something about bagels – their simplicity, their affordability, the endless variety or maybe the fact that they are one of the most convenient and portable meals – that central Maine seems to have grasped.

Naturally, the bagel stock is rising.

Two bagel shops have opened in Augusta in the last year, and another is set to open in Winthrop at the end of October. They join the longstanding Bagel Mainea on Western Avenue and Sunrise Bagel in Waterville in offering area residents a spin on the beloved ring-shaped bread.

Sunrise Bagel opened the doors to its second shop this month — about a half mile from Bagel Mainea on Western Avenue — inviting locals to try its menu accommodating sweet and savory preferences. Residents walked in on a chilly Sunday recently to try the sourdough bagels blended with different flavor combinations ranging from Mediterranean to Italian.

The news comes less than a year after Sand Hill Bagel Co. opened in a former mill building on Augusta’s Canal Street.

Inside the new Sunrise Bagel, customers waited patiently in front of the bright white counters, glancing at the glass display showcasing an assortment of bagels — the classic plain one or the one with sesame and cheddar. Behind the counter hung a menu listing the sandwiches and a variety of cream cheeses. A decorative rooster sat on a rack that contained cookies and pumpkin bagels for those with a sweet tooth.


“I don’t think I know anyone who doesn’t like bagels,” said Dimitrios Bailas, an Augusta resident. “People like it as breakfast or lunch. I am just treating myself because it’s Football Sunday.”

Lisa Bennett, another local awaiting her order, said her day doesn’t start before she downs a cup of coffee combined with a toasted sesame bagel.

“It’s what I did in college, and that habit has stayed, and I am glad we have nice options to buy bagels in Augusta now,” Bennett added.

Two years ago, Sunrise Bagel started as a passion project in Waterville. Tiffany Lopes, the owner and a Waterville resident, had a good reason to start a business: she needed a new sense of purpose.

“This happened after my youngest daughter moved out for college, and we were empty nesters,” said Lopes. “I needed something new, and being originally from New York, I missed bagels, and it became a project to make bagels in Waterville.”

Lopes admitted the idea also stemmed from a place of nostalgia. She recalled her childhood when, on weekends, her parents would take her out for bagels.


“It’s important to me, the sentiment. I see people come in on weekends to buy a dozen bagels with some cream cheese, and I know they will go home and the whole family will sit down and enjoy them as part of a ritual,” she said.

Two years later, her passion project has grown into two shops in central Maine, employing 34 people. Lopes’ husband, elder daughter, niece and nephew are also involved in the business.

Sunrise Bagel plans to open a third location at the end of this month in the Winthrop Commerce Center, seen in 2014. The large building on Main Street in Winthrop was once the Carleton Woolen Mill. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

A third location for the Sunrise Bagel will open sometime around Halloween at the Winthrop Commerce Center, a former woolen mill on the town’s Main Street. Lopes is collaborating with a Winthrop couple who had visited the Waterville location and were put under a spell.

Paige Picard said she missed having good bagels like she did growing up in New Jersey. That was until she visited the Waterville Sunrise Bagels.

“I entered the store, and I was immediately greeted by that feeling of being home, seeing smiling faces and bright colors,” said Picard. “After that, I was driving every other day from Winthrop to Waterville to buy bagels.”

Paige’s husband, Matt, had the idea to approach Lopes to help open a cafe in Winthrop. The store, located inside the Winthrop Commerce Center, will be smaller than the other locations, with a limited menu but will also feature Italian lattes and smoothies.


“It was second nature to us to like bagels, but now it’s extending outside that New York and New Jersey area,” said Picard. “People like it because of the taste or maybe also because of being able to make it into breakfast, lunch or dinner. The convenience of being able to get it on the go or just sit down and enjoy it.”

Bagels have been a universal choice of a food item, especially in the northeastern U.S., said Chad Conley, owner of Rose Foods, a bagel shop in Portland that has been open for the last six years and serves 2,000 customers per week on average.

Bagel Mainea, seen in January 2019, opened 28 years ago in Augusta. Its new owner, Pamela Hall-Donley, says bagels have become increasingly popular in central Maine. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

“Maine has had bagels for years,” Conley said. “There are a lot of shops here in Portland, but as long as they are all doing their distinct thing with bagels it’s going to remain popular. And I am sure that will be the case in central Maine, too.”

The distinctions Conley spoke about are the number of variations bakers tend to make that affect the final product. It can be the water-to-flour ratio, using commercial yeast or sourdough, the sweetness of the dough can affect the crunchiness and flavor of the bagel. Whether a bagel was shaped using hands or a machine, if it was boiled in normal water or sweetened water, the baking temperature — and the list goes on.

The point is that the variations are limitless, and therefore, each bagel — even if it is the most basic plain bagel smothered with cream cheese — will taste different from another.


“There are places in all communities where bagel shops have existed, but newer ones are taking a new spin on it,” said Conley. “But the good thing is communities tend to embrace and support their neighborhood bagel shops.”

That is the case with Bagel Mainea, one of Augusta’s oldest bagel shops. The shop originally opened 28 years ago and was purchased in May 2022 by Pamela Hall-Donley, who agreed with the notion that bagels are becoming increasingly popular.

“They are popular, and what I think also plays a role is that Augusta, which is the capital, has always been a quiet place, but now more people are moving in,” said Hall-Donley. “Augusta is becoming more of a modern city, and with that comes more bakeries and specialty shops like bagel shops.”

She acknowledged that more bagel shops opening is good for business. People are obviously going to try new places, she said, but in the end, every shop has a loyal fanbase and that will prevail.

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