Retail Tipsheet: The Bagelry will roll on with new owners

The Bagelry owners Marguerite Ryan, left, her husband Ken Ryan and soon-to-be new owners Terra Seaton and husband Aaron Seaton at the downtown restaurant on Sept. 18, 2015. The Railroad Avenue restaurant is scheduled to officially change hands Jan. 1.
The Bagelry owners Marguerite Ryan, left, her husband Ken Ryan and soon-to-be new owners Terra Seaton and husband Aaron Seaton at the downtown restaurant on Sept. 18, 2015. The Railroad Avenue restaurant is scheduled to officially change hands Jan. 1. The Bellingham Herald

The Bagelry soon will be under new ownership, but the bagels will remain very much the same.

After 31 years, Ken and Marguerite Ryan have decided to sell the bagel company to two longtime employees. Aaron and Terra Seaton will officially take over ownership on Jan. 1. In the coming weeks, the Ryans will work with the new owners about all aspects of the business at 1319 Railroad Ave., showing what made it a success all these years.

Ken said when they began making plans to sell the business, they wanted to make sure it went to someone who would keep the Bagelry tradition alive and they thought Aaron and Terra would be the best fit. He wasn’t sure they would be interested, but as he started talking to them about it, he was relieved to find they weren’t saying no.

“When we started the store and researched equipment, we wanted to make the very best bagel that we could,” Ken said. “We feel fortunate to have Aaron and Terra continue that tradition.”

The Seatons are Western Washington University graduates who enjoy the food business and really want to stay in Bellingham. They won’t make any drastic changes, Aaron said, and certainly won’t change the recipe for the bagels.

“It’s an historic part of downtown,” Aaron said. “We feel like we’re custodians of The Bagelry.”

Ken said he learned early on not to mess with the bagel recipe. About a year after opening the business, he went back to New York to see what kind of improvements he should make and was advised to add a little more sugar. He did so, and the regular customers quickly expressed their displeasure with the change. He went back to the original recipe and hasn’t changed since.

While the bagels haven’t changed, the Railroad Avenue block around The Bagelry certainly has. When the Ryans first opened the business in 1984, it was surrounded by bars. Ken said there were several times when people would stagger in during the early morning hours to order a beer, having confused it with a nearby bar.

“It was a rough block,” Ken said, adding that many times early on he had to escort employees to the bus stop after their work shift. “I spent too much time policing the building.”

Despite the bad elements in the area at the time, customers regularly stopped in to get their bagel fix. Eventually things improved. Now Ken likes how the block turned out.

“I think the city has done a good job letting Railroad (Avenue) grow organically,” he said.

Ken and Marguerite plan on spending time passing on the things they’ve learned to Aaron and Terra. One of the most important is to make sure to pay taxes on time, Marguerite said. Ensuring that is taken care of first makes decisions easier when it comes to taking on other expenses.

For the Ryans, the best part of handing off the business is it just feels like the right time.

“It feels like (The Bagelry) is staying in the family,” Marguerite said.

Once the ownership change is made, the Ryans have plenty of home projects and traveling on the to-do list, with Ken joking that he is due for a month-long nap. More seriously, he’s just looking forward to being a customer.

Details and updates about The Bagelry can be found on its Facebook page.


John and Wendy DeFreest, owners of Avenue Bread, have applied for a state liquor license to put in a restaurant/bar in the former AW Asian Bistro space at 1138 Finnegan Way. The establishment is called The Filling Station, and on its Facebook page it portrays itself as a gastro pub that is planning for an October opening... A liquor license was submitted for a nightclub called Kickin’ A Saloon & Dance Hall at 5225 Industrial Place, in the industrial park near Barron Heating & Air Conditioning. The applicant is Jesslyn Anderson. ... A Bellingham building permit application was submitted to remodel a space at 1145 E. Sunset Drive in Sunset Square for a new Xfinity retail store. ... A building permit was submitted for a 24-unit apartment building at 500 E. Kellogg Road. ... UPS has submitted plans to expand its freight distribution center from 11,000 square feet to 22,750 square feet at 2162 Midway Lane. ... Retail districts already are making plans for the trick-or-treat events around Halloween. With Halloween falling on a Saturday this year, businesses will need to make a decision on whether to go with Friday or Saturday events. The downtown Bellingham district, for example, is planning to have its annual trick-or-treat event 3-5 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 30, while Fairhaven is planning its event for 3-6 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 31. ... Film is Truth is getting ready to move over to the Bellingham Public Market at 1530 Cornwall Ave. According to the organization’s Facebook page, the plan is to make the move on Wednesday, Sept. 30.

Reach Dave Gallagher at 360-715-2269 or Follow him on Twitter at @BhamHeraldBiz and on Facebook at BellinghamHeraldBusiness.