The idea to get into the bagel business came to Rich Westcott very early one morning, after he had been reading about food. “Because I used to works nights, I developed strange sleeping habits and one morning about 3 or 4, I realized that what Cuenca needed is a good bagel.”
More than a year later, Westcott’s bagel business, Not So Schmart Bagels y Mas, is adding new customers as fast as he and his business partner, Marietha Rojas, can service them.
Finding the right recipe and baking time wasn’t easy. “Because of Cuenca’s high altitude we had to do a lot of experimenting,” Westcott says. In the end, he found the right combination of ingredients, baking time and temperature. All the preparation and baking still happens in Rich’s El Centro kitchen.
“I told all my friends what I was doing, they came and tried the bagels and that was the beginning,” he says. In February, Not So Schmart Bagels celebrated it’s first anniversary.
According to Westcott, giving people a taste of his products is the best marketing strategy. “Almost everyone who tries them likes them, and they want to know where they can get more,” he says. In the early months, Westcott offered taste tests in several local restaurants to help develop demand. He also took free samples to restaurant owners and many of them are regular clients today.
Westcott and Rojas are also working the traditional Cuenca markets, offering bagels to street vendors who get their clients hooked on bagel products. “Ecuadorians have different tastes than the gringos,” Westcott says. “Gringos like regular size hotdog bagels, for example, and Cuencanos like the small ones.” He’s also found a big demand for bagel sandwiches among Cuencanos.
Westcott, who worked as a magician for 20 years in the U.S. before moving to Cuenca three years ago with his wife Pat, takes pride in the fact that he makes the only genuine bagel in Cuenca. “A couple folks make something they call bagels, but they don’t follow the traditional recipe of boiling the dough before baking.” He adds: “The old recipe is the best one. People can tell the difference.”
Rich says his biggest sellers are onion-garlic bagels and bagel dogs, although the mermelada and ricotta cheese bagels are gaining in popularity. “We keep trying new things, new combinations. It keeps things fun,” he says.
Those interested in trying Westcott’s Not So Schmart Bagels, can do it at Café San Sebas, Wind Horse Café, Bananas Café, Nucallacta, Moca Café, and the Loft Café, as well as at other local eateries.
For private orders, email Rich at email@example.com
Photo caption: Bagel Man Rich Westcott; Westcott with his wife Pat and partner Marietha.