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Bagels. But make them black market.

Getting bagels to the ‘hard-working people of Gizzy’ has been Kellan Griffith’s project over the last year.

Originating from the US, Kellan first arrived in New Zealand with the intention to work and travel, with a bit of wine-study in between. Two years was all it took for her to decide that Gisborne was where she wanted to be. Endless sunshine and a nice boy didn’t hinder that decision either. 

After that initial taster, she returned to the US work a vintage in Oregon at Willakkenzie Estate. A keen learner and eager for a challenge, she sought a project to fill her spare hours. Thus, she turned to bagel making. 

She would make wine by day and bake by night, bringing her creations to work the following morning for her hungry fellow vintage workers. She picked a finnicky food – it took her several batches of trial and error to finally produce bagels she deemed good enough.  The treats she brought got a tick from the Willakenzie Estate vintage team and were fondly christened black market bagels, which would end up being a sticky name.

It was early 2019 when Kellan made her return to Gisborne. Whilst pondering where her dream job might be, she found herself still hungry to learn. A self-started business seemed to be an appropriate way for a hands-on, self-professed ‘project-person’ to fill their time and Gisborne’s quiet bagel market combined with Kellan’s love of baking made selling her bagels an obvious choice. 

When naming her business, she couldn’t look past the original name bestowed upon her bagels back at Willakenzie Estate. Kellan would work part-time jobs and scheme bagel-schemes in her hours off, and eventually launched Black Market Bagels Gizzy (BMBagels) in August 2019. A million miles away from Oregon in a small town on the east coast of New Zealand, Black Market Bagels was reborn.

BMBagels found its new home in the kitchen of Black Fig, run by catering chef Amy Spence. Through Amy’s generosity, Kellan was able to rent out a commercial kitchen space that fit her timeframe and budget.

Her typical week sees two rounds of bagels made. This line-up includes a classic seed bagel, a wholemeal bagel for that extra fibre, something more experimental (Kellan introduced me to her carrot and cumin bagel) and the crowd favourite – a cheesy number.

But it turns out bagels were the easy bit. Under the guidance of Google, Kellan learnt how to run a business. It was a steep learning curve as she navigated unfamiliar tasks such as bookkeeping and social media marketing. With BMB not fitting your standard business model, Kellan has often had to figure out things along the way. She has found being the sole person behind the business taxing, having only herself to rely on to cover all aspects of the business.

This is where community becomes invaluable. Kellan speaks of her gratitude for the willingness of people to help her. Amy Spence has been a key figure in the process of putting BMB together. Frank & Albie’s and Crawford Road Kitchen masterminds Amy Campbell and David Whitfield have also offered plentiful industry advice and moral support. 

Her most successful venture thus far has been her Wednesday bagel delivery service run through the BMBagels website. Through this scheme, Kellan delivers bagels (sometimes by bike!) alongside a matching set of spreads in reusable ramekins to different workplaces around Gisborne in time for morning tea. She also sells her bagels directly from Black Fig on Tuesday 12-2pm. Her hard work has earned her a loyal customer base composed of friends, businesses and general bagel eaters alike. 

In her mind, Gisborne has been the dream place to begin your own business venture due to the immensely supportive and welcoming community, and the absence of hyper-competitive, well-resourced chain stores and eateries. It is a place where word-of-mouth and social networks can bolster businesses, giving the small guys a chance.

When I spoke to Kellan, she was celebrating BMBagels’ recent council verification. For her, it’s the small milestones that mean a lot. She wants to gain stability and solidify BMBagels’ place not only in the Gisborne market, but in the hearts and stomachs of her customers as well. 

To get your hands on some of Kellan’s illegally tasty bagels, visit https://bmbagelsgizzy.com/ or head to Black Fig, 167 Wainui Rd, Tuesdays 12-2pm.

Story by Lauren Turner.

Photographs by Sarah Cleave.

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