Life’s too short, eat a bagel

Life’s too short, eat a bagel

Rachele Feisthamel, who has owned Albany-based Little Dog Advertising for more than seven years, and her husband, Kevin, who is manager of the endocrinology group at Albany Medical Center, in mid-December opened the takeout-only Pearl’s Bagels & Bakery in Crestwood Plaza, near their home in the city’s Whitehall neighborhood. Rachele turns 34 this coming weekend, Kevin is 35, and their daughter, Gigi, is 2½. Answers have been minimally edited for clarity and space.

QWe’ll start with an important first question: The bakery gets its name from the family’s Chihuahua. Does Pearl the dog like bagels?

a: Pearl has had her fair share.

Q Does she have a preference among your nine bagel varieties — plain, rye, onion, maybe pumpernickel?

a: She enjoys whatever Gigi is having.

Q You recently passed the six-month anniversary of Pearl’s opening. You have a single-batch operation for bagels, meaning once you run out, they’re gone for the day. How many bagels did you make at the beginning?

a: We started baking in our home for pickup orders, and the most we ever made was 130. When we opened the shop in December, we were doing 500 to 600 a day.

QOften running out quickly.


a: Some days early on the bagels were gone by 8:30 or 9 o’clock. We had to go up to 1,000 bagels a day within the first month.

QA sign tells customers that if bagels are sold out, they should try one of your house-made challah rolls, which you promise will “pleasantly surprise skeptics.” Has that proven to be true?

a: I’ve been told they’re some of the best people have ever had. We even have people who like them so much they stopped getting their sandwiches on bagels and have them on the challah rolls.

Q: You have converts!

a: Yes. We have at least 10 customers who come in every day we’re open, and there are so many that we see twice a week. I’d say I’m on a first-name basis with most of my customers.

Q: Your advertising company started with a focus on social media but has evolved into focusing on business conceptualization and branding, particularly in the hospitality industry. Of the 70 launches you’ve been involved with in Little Dog Advertising, many were restaurants or otherwise food-based. Even with all that experience, what did you find out you didn’t know when you opened the bakery?

a: A lot! I’m still learning new things every day.

Q: What time does that day start?

Pearl’s Bagels & Bakery

location: 16 Picotte Drive (Crestwood Plaza), Albany

hours: 6 am to 2 pm Wednesday to Sunday, closed Monday and Tuesday

Info: pearlsalbany.com

note: In-person service only. No phone or online orders or delivery. Takeout only. No seating available.


a: I get up at 1:25 am, and I’m at work by 2:30 or 3, when our bagel baker is already working. I bake off all the baked goods — cookies, brownies, muffins — and make all the challah rolls. When we open at 6, I transition to run the front-of-house operations and be there for customers.

Q: At the very top of your website it says, “We are currently accepting in-house orders only.” For a business born during the pandemic, especially one that started by taking orders via social media, it seems odd that you don’t have online ordering for pickup or offer delivery via third-party apps. Is that because you worry about keeping up with the volume? You still often sell out all of your bagels Friday through Sunday, though they’re usually available all day Wednesday and Thursday.

a: We’re a small shop. And my regulars are against online ordering because they say it will “ruin what Pearl’s is.” The sense of community that is forming has really blown our minds and opened our hearts. Yes, customers have to wait in line most of the time, but they are starting to talk to one another, become friends and make business connections.

Q: How was that community feeling on Mother’s Day?

a: The line started at 5:40 am There must have been 15 people in line when we opened the doors at 6, and everyone was talking to one another.

Q: You and your husband already both had full-time jobs, and, when the planning for Pearl’s started, you also had a child who was younger than a year. Given that you already knew how hard the restaurant industry is, why start your own place, especially one that requires you to go to work in the middle of the night?

a: During COVID, I was reading a book called “The Midnight Library.” It’s about someone who is considering taking their own life, and in between life and death there’s this whole library of lives that they could have lived. I was never mentally in a dark place like that, but it got me thinking about different life trajectories, about how every decision has the potential to put us on a different path, and we just thought, “What if we did this, opened a bagel place?” And we thought, “How would we feel if we didn’t do this?” So we decided to turn our life on its head.

Q: Do you ever tire or bagels?

a: It’s funny. As someone growing up in the ’90s, when there was so much body awareness and emphasis on being fit, I spent most of my life not eating bagels. I lived in New York City on and off for years, and I almost never ate bagels. The irony is not lost on me that I now own aa bagel shop. Life is too short not to eat the bagel.

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