Bantam Bagels entered the Shark Tank on January 9. Heavy interviewed co-owner Elyse Oleksak about her tasty creations.
To read all of Heavy’s Shark Tank coverage, click here.
1. They Are Mini Bagel Balls Stuffed With Cream Cheese
The flavors- which span savory and sweet- range from Cookies and Milk to French Toast to Onion Roll. The couple gets inspired by the food they love to try out these selections.
Their bestsellers are Everybody’s Favorite which is an everything bagel filled with vegetable cream cheese and Hot Pretzel, a pretzel salt bagel filled with cheddar Dijon cream cheese.
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2. A Husband & Wife Team Run It
Nick and Elyse Oleksak met at Columbia University where they both played sports. “I played lacrosse, Nick played baseball. We met during a team mixer my first year at Columbia,” Oleksak said. The bagel idea came to Nick in a dream in 2012. When he told Elyse about it, she first though, “I want that!” She explained her initial attraction:
I am a huge bagel lover, but always avoided them because of the carb overload. When he described a mini version of a still delicious favorite of mine, I was salivating from the get-go.
They credit their respective Italian and Jewish heritage for their culinary skills. “My grandfather was a baker in brighten beach, brooklyn, so baking authentic new york treats is in my blood! Nick grew up cooking alongside his Italian grandmother, which is where he cultivated his passion for food,” she said.
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3. Oprah Loves Them
SELFIE SATURDAY IS HERE!!!!! Stop by Bantam Bagels on Bleecker St. starting at 2pm to "take a selfie with Oprah" and get a FREE bantam. That's right FREE! Just follow the 3 simple steps and you get to enjoy a delicious treat on us! Don't forget to tag #OprahsBallin #FavoriteThings2014 #bantambagels #changethewayyoubagel #SelfieSaturdays #selfies #oprah
In the November 2014 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine, Winfrey chose the treats as one of her favorite things. She even published a code “Oprah” that lets customers get 20 percent off their purchase.
When asked how Oprah’s recommendation increased sales, Oleksak said, “The Oprah seal is like gold, so having her endorsement has really helped us to deliver our online shipping business.”
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4. They Started in New York City
Their flagship store is on Bleecker Street in the West Village neighborhood of Manhattan. “It gives us a true, authentic tie to New York City which is quite important when you’re making a bagel,” Oleksak acknowledged.
Another connection they have to New York is being a part of Yankee Stadium, home to the New York Yankees. As far as how that partnership came about, Oleksak explained, “The head chef of Yankee stadium read about our bagel balls and had to try them. He visited us in the shop, tried about a dozen and was hooked.”
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5. There Was a Technical Difficulty During ‘Shark Tank’
The couple said part of the reason that they started the business was because they were inspired by the contestants on Shark Tank. They applied to show, and likened the procedure to the college application process.
As they waited behind the doors in anticipation, Nick’s microphone was malfunctioning. Fortunately, it was fixed before their pitch.
“It was basically the toughest, most rigorous interview we have ever experienced,” she said.