From LA to Fort Wayne: Davey's Delicious Bagels brings a taste of innovation

After growing up in Columbia City and working at Ripple Bagel & Deli in Indianapolis, Davey Heritier realized he wanted to open his own steamed bagel sandwich shop someday; he just didn't know where.

At the time, he was living in Atlanta, Ga., working in the entertainment industry, so he thought about doing it there. Then he moved to Los Angeles, Calif., in 2019 and began gathering a team there. Heritier

Then COVID-19 hit, and just as Heritier's long-awaited plans were picking up speed, it was back to the drawing board. While on a run with his cousin in LA one day, Heritier was telling him about the situation, and his cousin, who works in real estate, gave him some advice.

"He said, 'You're from the Fort Wayne area, right? Why don't you go back to Fort Wayne, and open your shop there?'" Heritier recalls. "He said Fort Wayne was all over his radar as the place to be investing right now."

So in August, after months of doing his own research into the Fort Wayne food industry, Heritier became one of many residents across the U.S. fleeing the overcrowded coasts during COVID-19 with a mission to save money and pursue his dreams in an affordable market with more opportunity.

"I could have stayed in LA and burned through my savings and waited COVID out, but I didn't want to do that," Heritier says. "I decided to come back to Fort Wayne because it's got a great thing going."

Fort Wayne's real estate market is hot and growing hotter during the pandemic.

But even in an up-and-coming market like Fort Wayne, opening a food business during COVID-19 is a gamble. The pandemic has caused local favorites like Bird + Cleaver, Caliente Cuban, and Bravas to close their doors, and leaders across the U.S. expect more restaurant closures on the way. Between March and the end of May alone, the U.S. restaurant sector lost $120 billion in sales, according to research from the National Restaurant Association. It's a crisis prompting restaurant thought leaders to consider how the industry will remake itself in the future, thinking beyond the restaurant's four walls, says David Chang, Chef and Founder of Momofuku.

In Heritier's desire to open a bagel shop in Fort Wayne, he came up with one solution: Cut overhead and reduce the risk of infecting customers by operating a curbside carryout only business from a commissary kitchen.

In November, at the age of 39, Heritier opened Davey's Delicious Bagels & Deli in the CookSpring Shared Kitchen on Fort Wayne's South side. Troy Tiernon, CookSpring's Kitchen Coordinator, explains that Heritier is an innovator in more ways than one. Along with starting one of the first steamed bagel sandwich shops in the area, he's also the first chef using CookSpring as a ghost/cloud kitchen, where customers can order online and pick up their meals within minutes.

Simply place and pay for your order on Davey's website, enter your phone number, and you'll be given text message directions on how to pick up your food, as well as notifications of when it's ready. Heritier has also placed signs on the Summit's Campus where the CookSpring is located, so customers can find him.

Davey's Delicious Bagels offers a range of unique bagel sandwiches and soups on its menu.

Heritier says he hopes to open a brick-and-mortar shop in Fort Wayne someday where customers can hang out and enjoy live music. In addition to his food business, he also writes and records music for movies, television, and commercials on a publishing deal out of Nashville, Tenn. But the uncertainty and risk of the pandemic made it more feasible to start Davey's Delicious Bagels in a shared kitchen and stick to carryout for now.

"It's pandemic-proof," Heritier says.

So far, his concept seems to be working. In his first four days of being open, he exceeded his expected sales for the year. 

"I've already had to hire two people, and I've gone from one steamer to four steamers in two weeks," Heritier says.

Davey's Lox Bagels feature a fillet of brined salmon.

He's also learned the power of Fort Wayne's social media community, which is hungry for innovative local food concepts.

"Fort Wayne is a very active city online," Heritier says. "Every time I check Facebook at the end of the day, so many people are saying nice, encouraging, supportive things about my business, and without that, I don't think it would be nearly as successful as it has been."

So if you go to Davey's Delicious Bagels, what should you order?

His menu features breakfast, lunch, and brunch selections, ranging from his family recipe soup to his steamed bagel sandwiches dubbed with iconic Fort Wayne names, like the '07 (an everything bagel, griddle egg, turkey bacon, avocado, and American cheese) and the TinCap's Turkey (an everything bagel, veggie cream cheese, turkey, tomato, banana peppers, and swiss cheese).

Heritier recommends newcomers try one of his classic Breakfast Bagels with egg, cheese, and your choice of meat: Ham, sausage, or bacon. He also recommends his signature Big Delicious sandwich, a plain bagel, griddle egg, pork sausage, turkey bacon, ham, and American cheese, topped with Davey's Delicious Sauce, giving it a super savory flavor with a hint of spice.

Pair any sandwich with one of his homemade soups, like his Best Mushroom Soup, a vegetarian option made with a green soup base, or his Tomato Bisque, another vegetarian favorite, which pairs well with breakfast sandwiches.

Heritier recommends his classic bacon, egg, and cheese Breakfast Bagel for starters.

While Heritier is living in Columbia City with family during the pandemic, he hopes to move to Fort Wayne soon to keep growing his business here, and to others—especially those in bigger markets—considering relocating to Fort Wayne to start a business, he has a few words of advice.

"Do it," Heritier says. "Everyone I have talked to and reached out to in Fort Wayne has been very accommodating, and if they can't help me themselves, then they introduce me to people who might. Maybe that's a matter of like-minded people finding each other, but even in a weird time like a pandemic, launching a business can be done. The resources and the help from the community in Fort Wayne have been more than I ever could have hoped for."

Try Davey's Delicious Bagels

Davey's Delicious Bagels is open Monday-Friday 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Saturday 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the CookSpring Shared Kitchen. Curbside carryout service only. Drive to the back of the parking lot at 1025 W. Rudisill Blvd., and follow the signs around the left side of the building. Orders can be placed online at www.daveysdeliciousbagels.com.

Follow Davey's Delicious Bagels & Deli on Facebook and Instagram at @daveysdeliciousbagels.

Read more articles by Kara Hackett.

Kara Hackett is a Fort Wayne native fascinated by what's next for northeast Indiana how it relates to other up-and-coming places around the world. After working briefly in New York City and Indianapolis, she moved back to her hometown where she has discovered interesting people, projects, and innovations shaping the future of this place—and has been writing about them ever since. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @karahackett.
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