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Updated: June 26, 2023

Two years after launch of Waterville bagel shop, Augusta expansion is in the works

person smiling with tray of bagels Courtesy / Sunrise Bagel Tiffany Lopes opened Sunrise Bagel in Waterville in 2021 and is expanding to Augusta.

Two years after opening a bagel shop at 31 Water St. in Waterville, Sunrise Bagel founder Tiffany Lopes is looking forward to opening a second shop, at 60 Western Ave. in Augusta.

“It has grown tremendously since we started,” said Lopes. “We are seeing people from the local area and many from as far away as Portland and Bangor. We were named Best Bagels in Maine by Maine Magazine last year and that has helped fuel sales growth.”

Lopes and her husband, Joseph, bought the 5,120-square-foot, three-tenant retail building from Augusta Plaza Associates LLC. Tim Millett of Porta & Co. brokered the deal.  

The goal is to have the second spot open by late summer or early fall.

3 people in front of store
Courtesy / Sunrise Bagel
Sunrise Bagel founder Tiffany Lopes, seen here with her husband Joseph and their daughter, is looking forward to opening a second shop at 60 Western Ave. in Augusta, in a space formerly occupied by Little Caesar’s.

“We are currently working with an architect as well as other mechanical contractors and equipment manufacturers for the build-out,” Lopes said. “We anticipate that to renovate the space and then hire and train staff will take at least several months.”

A leap later in life

Making bagels and running the shop — which also sells items such as quiche, pastries, sandwiches, salads and spreads — is “one of those take a leap later in life experiences,” said Lopes, who is in her 50s.

Originally from New York City, bagels were always a comfort food. The couple moved to Waterville about 20 years ago, attracted by the lifestyle. 

“It seemed like a great place to enjoy the pace of life and raise three kids,” Lopes said. “We love winter, we love to ski, we love summer, and we love the lakes.”

As a mother, Lopes kept the household going and pursued side gigs such as teaching yoga while her husband, a surgeon who also serves as a colonel with the U.S. Army, was deployed.

“I had been making bagels at home for several years and wanted to do it on a larger scale,” she said. “I also had long thought that I wanted to start my own business.”

Lopes did some training with bagel makers in New Jersey and New York. Then she began experimenting with a slow fermentation process to make sourdough bagels, which she said is easier for those with gluten sensitivity — of whom she is one — to digest.

building materials inside space
Courtesy / Sunrise Bagel
Renovations are underway at the Augusta location.

With the kids grown and gone, the time seemed right to start a business.

“My youngest said, ‘Mom, enough thinking. It’s time for doing,’” she recalled with a laugh. “She kicked me out of my own nest.”

It was 2020. Lopes credits her husband for supporting the project.

Everyone knows your name

“We found ourselves buying a small building in the south end of Waterville and just jumping in,” she said. “I went down there on a winter morning, the sun was rising, and I said, ‘Here it is — Sunrise Bagel.’”

It took about six months to buy equipment and get up to speed. The shop opened in July 2021. 

“It was the scariest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” she said. “But once I’m in, I’m in.”

The shop was a success.

“We’ve become this really cool community spot,” she said. “The lights are blazing, the ovens are on at 4 o’clock in the morning, and we’re there doing it every day. Everyone knows your name, we know your bagel preference, and we’ve got music playing. It’s infectious.”

Local residents and Colby College students found the place pretty quickly. The shop is too small for sit-down service, but there are some picnic tables outside, where customers sit and eat, even in the winter.

“The Colby Nordic ski team thinks nothing of being out there in the middle of winter,” she said.

Lopes said she enjoys throwing in community games and contests, such as guessing the number of jelly beans during the spring holidays.

Her husband also caught the bug. 

“Here he is a colonel in the army, a surgeon, with lots of stress and responsibility — and his greatest joy is when he can be here all weekend long making bagel sandwiches,” she said. “He loves it. People come in and say, ‘I think that’s Dr. Lopes.’ I say, ‘In here, he’s Joe the bagel-slinger.’”

Other family members are now working at the shop. A brother-in-law came from the Bronx to work for Lopes, and a niece is one of the bakers. Her daughter — a chemical engineer — recently joined the business.

Augusta customers

Word of mouth was bringing people from the Augusta area to the shop. The couple decided to look at Augusta as a potential site of expansion last fall. 

people posing with sign
Courtesy / Sunrise Bagel
The Waterville location employs 14 staffers for the summer. Some might move to the Augusta location, and more hiring is expected.

“We did some market research and decided that if we could identify a suitable location, we could be successful there,” she said.

It took about six months to find a location. 

“We were looking for a location that was reasonably close to the downtown and wanted a high traffic area,” she said. “We wanted a location where we could bake and produce the product co-located with a retail space. We needed space for all of the above as well as ample parking and easy access.”

The building at 60 Western Ave. fulfilled their requirements. Two tenants will remain, while Sunrise Bagel is taking over a space formerly occupied by Little Caesar’s.

Demolition on the interior started earlier this month. Renovations include taking down some walls and the ceiling, replacing some flooring, moving one of the interior walls, doing a thorough cleanse and installing paint and décor. The space has big windows. Lopes said she enjoys colorful, fun art. The Waterville shop has lots of chickens and roosters to signal waking up at dawn. 

The purchase and renovations were financed by cash flow from the Waterville business and a business loan through Kennebec Savings Bank.

The Waterville location employs 14 staffers for the summer. Some might move to the Augusta location, and more hiring is expected.

On a Saturday, bakers make about 800 bagels per day, which typically sell out. Lopes also started taking bulk orders from places like colleges and summer camps.

“I have an order right now, that they want eight times this summer, of 700 bagels by 6 a.m.,” she said. 

That means having a baker show up at midnight to get the order rolling — plus making bagels for retail sales the next day.

“It’s very dynamic,” said Lopes.

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