For the past 10 years, Carolyn Doyle has been satisfying Fernie’s appetite for bagels, with foodies travelling from far and wide to get their fix.
Tomorrow, the Big Bang Bagels owner will celebrate a decade of success with the community of Fernie at the Big Bang Bagels 10 Year Block Party Bash.
“It’s hard to believe that 10 years have gone by and here we are, busier than ever and running smoother than ever,” mused Doyle.
“It’s amazing to me, I feel so lucky that I get to have this as my job because not everybody gets to do what they love and have the flexibility to make it what they want.
“I really want to thank my customers and my staff, and put on this little event, Block Party, to thank people and to celebrate.”
Big Bang Bagels started in Doyle’s kitchen 10 years ago when she was asked to cater for an ultimate frisbee tournament at the Canada Day market in Fernie.
“That was my first sort of taste making a lot of bagels and having lots of people trying them,” she said. “That went really well then that summer, I made bagels in the farmers market.”
Demand for Doyle’s bagels continued to grow and she soon moved into a commercial kitchen, which she shared with Just Pizza (now Not Just Pizza).
Exactly one year after her first market, she opened Big Bang Bagels at its current location on 2nd Ave in downtown Fernie.
Known simply as “Bang” among locals, the cafe employs about 25 staff, who work a mix of full-time, part-time and casual hours.
Big Bang Bagels offers white and whole wheat bagels in a wide range of flavours, which have been honed and altered over the years according to suggestions from customers and staff.
Doyle said one of the most popular flavours, pesto and spinach, was created for St. Patrick’s Day, but quickly became a permanent feature on the menu due to demand.
Customers may be surprised to learn that Doyle has no formal training as a baker and is in fact a biochemist by trade.
She is originally from Ottawa, Ont., where there is a big bagel culture, so she decided to test the waters in Fernie.
“I just took a recipe off the internet and kind of played around with it, and fed them to my friends,” she said.
“My friends thought they were good. That’s sort of how I got the confidence to be like ‘ok, maybe I could try selling these’.
“It was really nice to start off small because it was a way to test what people liked and where the bagel market was, where the next step would be and my customers really guided that I think.
“That’s where we are today – a nice, quick food that’s good value, with a friendly atmosphere and I think that was formulated because of the beginning roots of what people were demanding.”
Big Bang’s bagel recipe is highly sought after, but Doyle revealed a water jug was in fact her secret ingredient.
“We joke because we have this jug that has been with us from the beginning, for 10 years, that we measure the water in and there’s no exact numerical value, you measure it up to a line on this particular jug, so if we ever lost this jug we wouldn’t be able to make bagels anymore,” she laughed.
“It’s kept under lock and key, so that’s the real secret is the right amount of water. And I think just this space too, it’s a good temperature in here and it just sort of works in this space, the bagels seem to rise well.”
In the winter of 2009/10, Doyle launched a pop up shop at Snow Creek Lodge near Fernie Alpine Resort, which she operated for three years.
After a two-year break, Big Bang Bagels moved into the Rusty Edge restaurant.
“That’s been a great partnership, we’re lucky that they are opening up that space for us and they seem to get some benefits from having us there too,” she said.
“It’s nice to be up there in the winter time when we’re skiing, get part of that ski vibe.”
Word of Big Bang Bagels continues to spread and the cafe is now a tourist destination in its own right, drawing bagel-lovers from far and wide.
A few years ago, Doyle created “Da Bomb”, a giant bagel sandwich that has undone even the most dedicated eaters.
“We take a pound of dough – usually our bagels are a quarter of that size – but we take a pound of dough and roll it into a big bagel then… you have to have four eggs, four pieces of ham, eight pieces of bacon, four pieces of cheese, a full avocado, tomatoes and fried onions on it. If you can finish that faster than the record time then you get it for free. If you can finish it at all, you get a t-shirt that says ‘I defused da bomb’.”
The current record holder is Kris Finley who finished Da Bomb in five minutes 35 seconds.
“He was here working construction on the roads or something and he came in just on his break and did it then went back to work, which is pretty incredible because most people are put out for the next 24 hours after they do it,” said Doyle.
Da Bomb and Big Bang Bagels looks set to remain exclusive to Fernie, with Doyle indicating she currently has no plans to expand the business.
“I’m happy trying to make this shop the best it can be,” she said.
“I feel like if I put another shop somewhere else it would be really dividing my time and right now I’m more interested in spending more time with my family and making sure the business runs well… maybe in the future I’d be interested in something like that, but I think it’s also pretty nice that Fernie is the only place you can get Big Bang Bagels.”
The Block Party will run from 3-6 p.m. on Friday and feature a beer garden, live music, jumping castle and face painting on 5th St next to the cafe.