When John Auburn opened a second Whidbey Island Bagel Factory in Oak Harbor, it meant adapting to a new market.
That meant customizing the menu to satisfy the taste buds of North Enders.
Apparently, the effort was appreciated. The business is this year’s Best of Whidbey winner in the Baked Goods, Bagels and Donuts category
“Oak Harbor has been kind of a different animal. It’s different in all sorts of ways — different food, different payments, but it’s been good,” Auburn said.
“Sandwiches that go great down here (Clinton) don’t up there,” Auburn added.
One of those was the curry chicken bagel sandwich that he said flies off the shelves in Clinton. Instead, the Oak Harbor location offers a more traditional chicken salad sandwich with grapes, toasted almonds and garlic mayo.
“It’s more crowd-pleasing,” Oak Harbor store manager Michelle Berger said.
It was tough to adapt to the new location in the beginning, Berger said, because of all the menu changes. At first she wasn’t sure if the shop could sell its pesto garlic bagel since the South End store has much better ventilation from the garage doors it has.
Luckily, they were able to modify its production a little bit because people love them, she said. Its best seller has been the turkey club sandwich with its thick cut bacon, avocado and Britt’s full sour pickles.
Besides the obvious sign of being voted the Best of Whidbey, it’s clear that customers love the well-rounded menu.
Jack Seymour of Oak Harbor said he usually orders the jalapeno cheddar bagel. With it’s toasted and slightly crunchy cheddar cheese top and just the right amount of heat from the jalapenos to linger on the tongue, but not overpower the bagel, it makes a tasty snack.
“My wife and I come here all the time. We used to go to the shop in the South End,” Tom Hoctor of Oak Harbor said.
Hoctor said he and his wife were pretty excited when Auburn decided to open a second location in Oak Harbor, and now they eat there all the time.
“It’s the place to go.”
The bagels have a pretty far reach too. Auburn said that one customer recently came in to order four and half dozen bagels to be shipped to New Jersey, and another customer asked for two and a half dozen to be shipped to Chicago.
Auburn plans to open up five new stores in the future. The next one will be in Mount Vernon in late 2019 or early 2020, he said. After that he’s looking at spots in Bothell, Mukilteo and Edmonds.
When asked if he’d ever change his menu and pursue other menus, he said no.
“Bagels and bagels sandwiches seem to be working pretty darn good,” he said.