MIDDLETOWN — In the span of just two years, Jameson McQuade went from baking batches of about 40 bagels in his mom’s kitchen to delivering close to 1,300 bagels to homes and businesses around Aquidneck Island.
Now, he says, people will have to take the train to New York City if they want to get their hands on a delicious New York-style bagel.
Jamo’s Bagels is calling it quits as McQuade, who played basketball, soccer and tennis for Middletown High School, seeks to pursue a career in sports management, his major at St. John’s University in Queens.
Queens is also where McQuade fell in love with New York’s trademark bagels, which are boiled before baking to produce a hard, shiny exterior and a chewy interior. He said he used to go the local bagel shop almost every single morning on his way to class, and when he moved back to Middletown after college, he craved the flavor so much he decided to recreate it himself.
McQuade was working at Nitro Bar when he first started making the bagels at home. Eventually the coffee shop invited him to produce the bagels in their kitchen and occasionally sell them to customers. As word got around and people started seeking out his bagels, McQuade, whose post-college job search was put on hold by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, decided to strike out on his own.
He started a weekend bagel delivery business, baking overnight out of the Foodworks kitchen in Portsmouth.
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“I would take preorders online beginning every Monday, and then I had wholesale accounts — Foodworks, both Nitro Bar locations, Sweetberry Farm, Brenton Hotel, those were the main accounts,” he said. “And I would deliver house to house every Friday, Saturday and Sunday morning.”
Foodworks is open for breakfast and lunch from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. every day, so McQuade would come in around 3 o’clock in the afternoon, make his dough, let the bagels proof in the walk-in cooler, then bake like a madman from about 1:30 to 6 a.m., finishing his last batch and hitting the road to make his deliveries before the Foodworks staff started their morning prep.
He would deliver from 6 to 8 a.m., collapse into bed and sleep until the early afternoon — then repeat the process again.
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McQuade explained the business was profitable and growing, to the point where the logical next steps would be to establish a brick-and-mortar location and hire employees. But he decided he just was not ready to commit to an expansion that would tie him to his hometown.
“The decision to not continue with the business had nothing to do with money,” he said. “When I first started making bagels with trial and error, I was making like 40 bagels at my house and selling to friends and family. Then before I knew it, a year later I was making 1,300 a weekend, which seems pretty crazy.”
“I was essentially detached from the world,” he explained. “I was just sleeping and working. The work schedule is definitely part of it, but I also went to school for sports management at St. Johns … I think entrepreneurship will always be a part of me, so I wouldn’t rule out having my own business down the road, but I definitely want to go into the sports field and work with either a sports team or just in the sports industry and work with a team and a group of people rather than just do something on my own.”