Just after noon on a Saturday, Sherry Stephens of Ann Arbor tried the door at MD Bagel Fragel at 3500 Washtenaw Ave.
It was locked, even though the store’s regular hours are 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
A sign on the door read, “Due to an overwhelming demand in our freshly baked bagels, we have sold out. We will re-open tomorrow at 6:30 am with more daily fresh bagels and fragels.”
Bagels, a necessity for many Ann Arborites, have been scarcer since the pandemic, echoing a national trend.
The best bet for finding them has been chains like Barry Bagels, Panera, and Bruegger’s.
The Produce Station has stopped carrying Elaine’s Bagels, which it used to display in a bakery case. For sanitary reasons, it now offers packaged H&H Bagels shipped from New York instead.
Produce Station vice president Andrew Gorsuch says it’s frustrating. “The pinnacle of a bagel is one that’s fresh and sold the same day,” he says.
Meanwhile, Zingerman’s Bakehouse has reduced frequency and flavors.
Bakehouse partner Amy Emberling says demand from many wholesale customers plummeted when the state’s shutdown order took effect last spring—”to a point where it actually didn’t make sense to make them.”
Instead of a dozen rotating flavors, they now bake only five, and only on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday. The popular Bagel Tuesday promotion—buy six, get six free—is gone.
MD Bagel Fragel owner Patricia Rockette says she used to sell as many as 2,000 bagels a day at her old location on Plymouth Rd. “Now, I’m lucky if I can sell 200,” she says.
So she’s baking fewer and has to guess what varieties might sell. “I can make anything you want,” she says. “I just won’t make it otherwise.”
Rockette urges customers to call ahead to reserve their bagels and avoid being disappointed, like Stephens, who explains her love for bagels this way:
“They make you happy. It’s a carb. What can I say?”