NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A New Jersey bagel baker opens a shop in Nashville imitating New York City water with a filter to bake East Coast-style bagels.
Hector Sanchez learned to roll bagels as a teenager.
"It took me about three months to get them where I'd be able to consistently make them correctly. And it took me another three months to make em fast enough so it's worthwhile for me to do it," explained Sanchez.
Forty years later after a teaching career, he decided to move to Nashville to be closer to his sister and to open a bagel shop.
"When I visited here, I noticed we don't have East Coast-style bagels here. So I came here, had that idea, ran it through with my wife. And as long as she was okay with it, we ran with it," recalled Sanchez.
Sanchez spent more than a year scouting a location for his shop, opening it while his wife and children are still in New Jersey. Away from his family and awake daily to roll 500+ bagels he said, "I put a lot of love in what I'm doing."
In his decades of rolling bagels, Sanchez said the ones in Nashville are the best he has ever made due to the consistency of the dough.
Sanchez said he owes much to the water filter he installed.
"I got a machine that imitates the water--imitates the water in New York. This machine...takes the water from here, puts it through four filters where it cleans it up completely and then it puts all the minerals and stuff within the New York City parameters, but to the best specifications for making bread within those parameters," explained Sanchez. "I’ve rolled for 40 years. And my dough has never been as consistent as when I have this."
His customers notice this difference, too.
"People have stopped me from baking and said, ‘Are you the owner?’ and I said ‘yes.’ And he’s going like, ‘I just need to tell you,’ he’s like, ‘I love your bagels,'" recalled Sanchez. "We even have a couple of families that come, like an hour away on Sundays to get bagels."
One woman told him thanks to his shop, she does not need to have her parents mail her bagels from New Jersey monthly anymore.
Sanchez explained, "A customer says he was here 17 years and he thanked me he says, ‘the only time I ever have our bagels is when I go back home to visit family.’"
Awake at 4:40 daily, Sanchez admits it is hard work to hand-roll bagels every day but said he would not want it any other way.
"It's hard for me to explain the difference between a machine-made bagel and a hand-rolled bagel," said Sanchez. "The hand-rolled bagel, you don't get every one exactly the same. But, I believe you put a lot of love into... I love rolling bagels. I could, I could work 10 hours a day, and then roll another six without any problem because it's something that is therapeutic."
H&S Bagels donates any leftovers to the Nashville Rescue Mission every day and bakes a fresh batch each morning.
"It's a dream that I have a business," said Sanchez with a smile. "In the three months I've been here it's been incredibly successful... I love the people in Tennessee."
H&S Bagels is located at 105 17th Ave S, Nashville, TN, 37203, north of Music Row just off Broadway.