Business at Blazing Bagels heats up

Life is good for Dennis Ballen and his crew at Blazing Bagels. So good that Blazing Bagels is expanding its Redmond operations at 6975 176th Ave. NE and opening a second location in downtown Bellevue.

Open seven days a week and most holidays too, the busy bagel shop draws devoted customers from miles and miles around.

“Every day we’re asked, ‘When are you gonna open another store?’,” said Ballen. “We’ve had requests from Olympia to Bellingham. Bellevue was a natural choice because we’re well-known there. I got a call from an agency there and they found us the perfect location.”

It’s at 555 108th Ave. NE and will open on April 1.

There will be no baking at the Bellevue store, except for some cookies.

“We’ll bring all the same products from here — it’s a 10-minute drive,” said Ballen.

Clearly, Blazing Bagels has fared better than a lot of other businesses in this recession.

“Our weekday business is down a teeny bit, but weekend business is up,” Ballen noted. “Genie (Industries) people used to come in for lunch or bagels in the morning, but since the layoffs there, they’re in on weekends instead. Our business has actually gone up by 27 percent since this time last year.”

Of course, he has hired more help for the Bellevue store. And with warmer weather coming, look for Blazing Bagels products at many of the Eastside farmers’ markets.

What’s the secret of Blazing Bagels’ success?

The store sells 29 varieties of bagels “made with no artificial anything.” Rosemary is the newest flavor. Ballen also prides himself on his traditional Jewish deli products such as Rugelach and authentic sandwiches made with pastrami that comes from New York.

“We mound that high — it’s a big, healthy sandwich,” Ballen promised.

Another sought-after product is the black-and-white cookies.

“People from New York come in looking for them. Seinfeld did a whole episode on eating black-and-white cookies the proper way, I’m told,” he added, laughing.

Blazing Bagels will soon make and deliver box lunch sandwiches and Ballen is creating a separate preparation area just for Challah and other Kosher baked goods.

“We’re also about 90 percent done with our first-ever printed menus and brochures,” said Ballen. Until now, customers have ordered from a chalkboard, but he wants to make it easier for people to call in their orders.

“The menu has a little attitude, it’s a little sassy, New York-style,” he pointed out. The best-selling sandwiches are named after Ballen’s Jewish relatives.

The Fannie Freeburg is the famous pastrami sandwich he mentioned. The Zoey Zuckerman sandwich features lox (smoked salmon). Betty’s Balenski’s Tuna was a recipe passed down from Ballen’s mom. And so on and so forth.

Oddly, there’s a peppered turkey sandwich named “Juan Goldstein.”

Ballen explained, “He married into the family.”

Only the smoked ham sandwiches have Christian names — Christopher and Paul. And yes, they have breakfast sandwiches, as well.

Blazing Bagels’ Web site was under construction at the time of the Reporter’s deadline, but to learn more about the Redmond store or the new Bellevue location, call (425) 883-1550.

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