For 20 years, Linda Martinez and Steve Brenner, a married American couple, have lived in Rome, where, most recently, they ran the Beehive, an eco-friendly hostel. But then the pandemic came and the guests left, and they both got very depressed. Still, they and their three daughters had to eat, so Brenner started spending more time in the kitchen. Among the many things that he made were bagels, inspired by his childhood in Connecticut. Maybe, Martinez joked, she could sell them to generate a little extra income for the family.
So in October, Martinez posted some bagel photos on Instagram. The orders came in immediately. At that point, they told The Washington Post, they realized they had a choice: they could either give up the bagel-selling hobby because it was getting too overwhelming, or they could scale up into a real business.
Since the story is in The Washington Post, I’m sure you can figure out what they decided.
In search of advice, Brenner met up with a friend, Emanuele Piga, who owned a local pizzeria named Mr. Crunch. Piga’s business wasn’t doing so well, either. So he agreed to team up with Brenner and Martinez and also lend them his dough-making expertise and pizza oven. They called the business Beehive Bagels.
Beehive Bagels was an immediate hit, and now it is taking orders from all over Italy and even Switzerland. Piga and Brenner do the tasting. Brenner also does the recipe development, a painstaking process. Martinez handles orders and PR. One of the daughters designed a pamphlet that shows customers how to take care of their bagels properly.
Most Beehive Bagels customers have been American expats who are nostalgic for the taste of home. Bagels are not generally part of the Italian diet; for breakfast, most Italians get by with coffee and pastry. But Brenner and Martinez have big plans: they want to get Italians as addicted to bagels as Americans are. They are playing around with the idea of a sort of pen-pal system so that people can send bagels to Italians who have never experienced them before.
“Italy has contributed so much to U.S. food culture,” Martinez says, “we would love to give back.”