Flo's started a little less than a year ago as a pop-up that has batch-by-batch become a flourishing business. Now, with your help to boost our initial investment, we can build out our bakery and shop, finally giving Amsterdam's community of bagel-lovers a homebase for their weekly brunching rituals.
THE BIG IDEA
As an East Coast expat, I've missed bagels, sure. But more than anything, what I missed was the experience of getting bagels. It’s a ritual: whether you get the same sausage, egg and cheese on an everything bagel from the same bodega every day before work or whether it’s your weekend routine to pad out of your apartment and grab a half dozen, coffee, and a paper. So while it’s true that Amsterdam is missing what would qualify as a passable bagel, what it’s really missing is a bagel shop that facilitates or creates this ritual.
Flo’s shop will be both a bagel bakery and appetizing store. An appetizing store–in the traditional sense known mainly in New York and Montreal–sells everything to do with bagels: smoked and cured fish, cream cheese spreads, pickles and accompaniments, and a few baked treats.
However, Flo’s isn’t striving for so-called “authenticity." I always imagined that if I did anything with food, I would naturally honor the traditions that had been passed down to me, and to find a way to celebrate how integral they've been in making me who I am today. Flo’s brings my own heritage to the forefront, but also builds on the context of being Polish-American, of my New England and New York roots, of family traditions and rituals, of cooking in tune with the seasons. Instead of trying to recreate some archetype of a classic bagel shop, I see Flo's as an expression of a bigger, broader idea of how traditions plant themselves into the future, forever evolving.
BAGELS IN THE HOOD
We’ve found our dream location on a vibrant street in West–the Jan Pieter Heijestraat–a bustling street that feels like a village. The JPH connects the main roads of Kinkerstraat and Overtoom, and serves the surrounding neighborhood with a diverse mix of owner-operated small, independent businesses. It’s always been one of my favorite shopping streets in Amsterdam, and I couldn't have dreamed of a better spot to set up our homebase.
HOW YOUR CONTRIBUTIONS WILL HELP
The most important thing that opening a shop will let us do is to increase production volume and frequency. Up to this point, Flo’s has operated out of Kitchen Republic, sharing space with over thirty other awesome food businesses. Being a part of the community has been so valuable, but as Flo's continues to grow, we need our own space and equipment to meet the demand for more bagels!
The shop will feature an open production kitchen where customers will be able to see our end-to-end process and get to know our team. We've got a bit of renovation to tackle, but getting things ready to roll will be more about customization: optimizing the kitchen layout, building a bespoke counter, and creating some hand-painted signage.
This campaign will give us a boost for covering the costs of our beautiful new deck oven, where we’ll finally be able to bake on custom-made bagel boards. It’s a state-of-the-art German-made model with modern features but a beautiful traditional look and feel. It’s called the Piccolo!
Of course, a bagel shop is also going to need exceptional coffee, and this campaign will also help us install a top-notch set up. Our coffee program will be curated by our good friends and frequent collaborators (and now, down-the-street-neighbors), Lot Sixty One, who will offer not only their own roasts, but also feature hand-picked selections from the world’s most interesting indie coffee brands.
Finally, your contributions will also enable us to establish partnerships that highlight the best local and regional suppliers as well as fellow makers. Our shop is small, but it’s our aim to stock our shelves and fridge with the best smoked fish, the freshest local dairy products, the best plant-based spreads, and the most beautiful seasonal produce...plus lots of house-made goodies.
WE'RE MAKING MORE THAN DOUGH
One of the most fun aspects of organizing this campaign has been coming up with a cool set of rewards to offer you for your generous contributions. At its heart, our goal is about community-building; Flo's is passionately focused on creating a strong sense of place. But, of course we have the extra challenge of extending that reach far into our international network. So we've tried our best to offer great incentives that will make you feel a part of Flo's, wherever you are in the world.
Here's what you can expect:
HUNGRY FOR MORE? HERE'S THE (W)HOLE STORY
I’d been baking bagels for years at home, but Flo’s got started this past December as a Saturday pop-up. We were so popular right out of the gate that before the weekend was over I’d quickly set up a website with an online ordering system. Since then, I’ve built the business by offering small batches of bagels, plus homemade schmears and babkas through pre-orders with designated local pickup dates and locations. I’ve also collaborated with some other businesses around town like Thull’s and 48|50 in Oost, and Flora and Lot Sixty One in West for pop-ups and events. Flo's has also started to offer catering and has established a limited number of wholesale partnerships.
Flo is Florence Witkowski, my maternal grandmother. While both of my parents worked full-time, my sister and I spent every day at our grandparent’s. The kitchen was the center of the house, and Flo was stationed there morning, noon, and night.
This side of my family is Polish, and New Britain, Connecticut, where we were raised, is a Polish community. Other members of our family were based in New York–my grandpa Eddie was raised in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and we have a lot of relatives in Jersey, too. My Dad's side of the family is proper New Englander, with a lineage that dates back to pilgrims landing at Plymouth.
Polish traditions were an integral part of our family life, especially where holidays and food were concerned. We attended a Polish-Catholic school, with Polish language and culture lessons, and celebrated Polish festivals like Dożynki every year.
Flo was the cook of the household, and an excellent baker known especially for her poppyseed babka; it’s her recipe I use today, and it’s perfect. Despite her painful arthritis, Flo hand-kneaded all of her doughs. Christmas and Easter-time would involve Flo and her sister, my auntie Claire in a pierogi production line that took over the kitchen for days. Enormous pots of kapusta crowded the stove, and several varieties of kielbasa and pickles would be acquired.
Flo would always have a fresh-baked cake waiting for us after school, shamelessly using a boxed mix and Duncan Hines frosting–she was a housewife in the fifties after all. My mother also inherited the cooking gene, preparing a homemade meal every night after work, but also tackling ambitious baking projects for school events and holidays. My sister too, is an avid home cook with a garden who loves pickling and preserving things. Somehow she and I both ended up with vegetable tattoos.
WHAT’S THE VISION FOR FLO’S?
In addition to being your friendly neighborhood bagel and coffee joint, we’d also love to host workshops and small gatherings in our cozy space. I’m already thinking ahead to a holiday-time pierogi pop-up, and in the summer, grilling hot dogs on a Saturday afternoon. We’re surrounded by excellent neighbors and have a lot of talented friends in the community; we’d love to open ourselves up as collaborators and hosts.
Flo’s will inevitably outgrow our first space, but our aim is to expand intentionally. We are, and would like to remain, a neighborhood establishment. My hope is to add a few other locations, designed to fit into the character of the neighborhood they occupy. Eventually, I’d also love to extend Flo’s to a full delicatessen concept. I have a lot of ideas, and this is just the start. I hope you'll join us.
Risks and challenges
Building out a new space is always risky business. We are optimistic that our renovation and set up process will have us ready for an opening date sometime between mid-October at the earliest, and the first week of November at the latest. In the meantime, we'll do our best to keep feeding our regular customer's bagel cravings!
Moving from pop-ups and events to running a full-time operation will definitely present new challenges, but we're confident that we have the experience and support to handle this transition.
Though we've occasionally had a kitchen or counter helper for our busier events, Flo's will now be growing from a solo-operated business to managing a small team of bakers and staff in order to deliver exceptional and consistent products and customer service. Of course we'll first have to find and train these unicorns.
We are grateful to the community we've built thus far, but Flo's will need to continue working hard to build our reputation in our new neighborhood, as well as to continue reaching new customers across Amsterdam. We've got some minds to change about bagels around here!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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