First bagel shop in Santa Ynez Valley sees success
Through the financial crisis in 2008 and the current economic crisis from the COVID-19 pandemic, a married baker couple has made lemonade out of lemons, and, more importantly, opened the first bagel shop in the Santa Ynez Valley.
Kevin and Amber Vander Vliet own and run Enjoy Cupcakes, a sweets shop that once had two locations, one in the Santa Barbara Public Market and one in Buellton.
Over 12 years, the couple created more than 700 flavor combinations of cupcakes, including wine-infused cupcakes.
The 2008 financial crisis led them to opening the sweets shops, and they were optimistic about the business’ future. They baked their unique “cupcake flights” for weddings, birthdays, holidays and other parties.
“We felt like we had a business that could never really be impacted negatively, because we obviously felt like people were always going to get married, always going to have parties, always going to get together, always going to celebrate,” Mr. Vander Vliet told the News-Press.
Then COVID-19 hit.
Both storefronts had to close, weddings were postponed or canceled, and the couple’s two children, a 13-year-old and an 8-year-old, began remote learning.
As a result, the Vander Vliets had to make the tough decision of permanently closing their Santa Barbara location, as they could no longer make the daily drive.
“We were just cut off at the knees at this point,” Mr. Vander Vliet said. “I looked at Amber and said, ‘Hey, there’s no bagel shop in the (Santa Ynez) Valley, and I think there’s an opportunity for us to become a bagel shop as well as a sweets shop.’”
He had dabbled with bagels as a hobby, so he threw up some photos of his homemade bagels on social media to see if there was any local interest.
To his surprise, his wife informed him that he needed to make 600 bagels in three days according to the demand.
Thus Enjoy Bagels began, with Mr. Vander Vliet boiling and baking the bagels in traditional New York style, and Mrs. Vander Vliet making numerous flavors of homemade schmears, including cream cheese, sun-dried tomato rosemary, scallion, garlic basil pesto, green olive, lox, jalapeño salsa and cinnamon honey.
“I kind of want people to feel like they went to New York and went down an alley and discovered this hidden bagel shop,” Mr. Vander Vliet said. “I think we just gravitated to that concept and went all in with it. I have so many regulars now that come back all the time, and it just solidified that a bagel shop is something that was really needed.”
Located at 270 E. State Route 246 in Buellton, Enjoy Bagels & Sweets is open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. The shop features a special bagel every week.
Complete with a large lit arrow pointing to the door, black walls and industrial-style seating, along with newspaper baking paper wrapping each bagel, the couple’s business is succeeding in the back alley, New York vibe.
Popular bagel-wiches include the Bagel Burrito, a jalapeño cheddar bagel with the jalapeño salsa schmear, Al pastor beef, black bean corn salsa, grilled pineapple, melted cheese, queso fresco and fresh cilantro, and the French Toast, a cinnamon sugar bagel soaked in egg, cream, cinnamon and vanilla bean, topped with powdered sugar, blackberries or strawberries, fresh whipped cream and homemade caramel.
Others include the Goldie LOX, Triple Grilled Cheese, Avo Toast and C-PB&J.
Mr. Vander Vliet has concocted a philly cheesesteak bagel, a chicken banh mi bagel and a slow-smoked pork shoulder bagel in his weekly specials.
Customers can also enjoy the classic sweets from Enjoy Cupcakes, including a Cupcake Flight (a variety of six mini cupcakes), cookie-wiches, cake puddings, cookie dough balls and muffins.
“It’s simple. I’m sweet and he’s savory,” Mrs. Vander Vliet said of herself and her husband. “I used to be the one in the bakery at 4 in the morning for 10 years, and now with the way we’ve had to change our schedules, his alarm goes off at 3:09 in the morning.”
“The customers that come in — I have not had one even mediocre upset customer,” Mr. Vander Vliet said. “Everyone comes in, and they’re so happy that we’re there. They’re so gracious, so kind, so excited.”
To learn more about both the sweet and the savory sides of the Vander Vliet’s business, visit enjoycupcakes.com.