Alum’s bagel business is booming

Winston’s meteoric rise has been covered by major news outlets across the country, including the San Francisco Chronicle and the New York Times, which featured Boychick in an article titled “California Has the Best Bagels (Sorry, New York).”

“We blew up in the best way possible,” she said. “I realized there was a definite demand in California for New York-style bagels.”

Cooking in a new way

The seeds for Boychik were planted about a decade ago when Winston learned that H&H’s iconic Manhattan location on the Upper West Side was closing. While developing her own pretzel recipe, she took baking classes and sampled pretzels from around the world—especially New York.

Winston spends years roasting test batches, searching for the perfect combination of density, maltiness, chewiness, crust and aroma.

“I set up blind taste tests at home with friends and even created an entire pretzel tasting dictionary based on wine tasting,” she explained. “Five years later, I had an amazing bagel.”

She sold bagels from a pop-up outside her home in Alameda to start, with customers lined up around the block early in the morning.

Her business was growing rapidly and she needed to find commercial premises. This is where Noah Alper, founder of Northern California bagel empire Noah’s New York Bagels, helped take things to the next level.

Alper called Winston in 2019 to tell her that Noah’s flagship Berkeley location on College Avenue was closing after three decades and the space would be available for rent.

“It’s an amazing location,” he told her. “You should go see him.”

Everything fell into place from there.

Investing in a delicious idea

One of Winston’s supporters and early investors is a professor and mentor with whom she developed a great friendship during her graduate studies at UC Davis — Dan Sperling.

“She’s incredibly smart and an outstanding engineer,” Sperling said. “The idea of ​​her taking her skills and applying them in innovative and creative ways really impressed me.”

Sperling is a distinguished professor of civil engineering and environmental science and policy and founding director of the Transportation Research Institute. He is also one of Boychik’s original taste testers, often doing field research for Winston when he travels to New York and overseas.

“I travel all over the world, so I go to different bagel shops and test them,” he said. “I also take pictures and report back to let her know how her bagels compare – and Emily’s are always better.”

Sharing “memories of Jewish New York”

Winston doesn’t just sell pretzels; it offers some nostalgia.

“What I bring to the table are memories of Jewish New York,” she shares. “I’ve had no shortage of people thanking me, saying, ‘I’ve been in the Bay Area for 20 years and I’m so happy that now I can eat food that reminds me of home and raise my kids on it.'”

Some of Winston’s favorite family memories involve food. She enjoyed traveling with her father from central New Jersey to New York, where he worked as a food chemist inspecting food factories. After work, they would head to H&H for fresh bagels and Zabar’s Market for exotic cheeses, lox and other specialty items.

Winston said the inspiration behind her business name, Boichik Bagels, was a nod to her Jewish heritage and queer identity.

“When I first cut my hair and went home to see my grandmother, I was nervous about what she would say,” Winston said. “She took one look at me and said ‘my little boy.’ It was a sweet moment.”

Boychik is a combination of a Yiddish word, fighter — a term of endearment to a young boy — and slang fight used to refer to gender identity in gay and lesbian communities, Winston explained.

“People either appreciate it or they don’t,” she said. “Either way, it has a very special meaning to me.”

Building a pretzel empire

Today, business is booming.

Boichik currently sells about 15 different flavors of bagels, including sesame, everything, egg and pumpernickel. She also sells homemade pastries, coffee from a local bakery, fish salad, lox and a few seasonal items, keeping her menu true to “old school New York.”

Winston started earlier this year in a commercial space in Santa Clara and plans to enter the Southern California market soon. And Boychik recently launched nationwide shipping for select flavors.

As the business continues to expand, customers may soon be able to find these New York-style bagels in the freezer aisle of their local supermarket.

“I want our bagels to spread up and down the West Coast,” Winston said. “In the next five years, I want Boyczyk to be the go-to name for bagels.”

For now, she’s just having fun and taking things one step at a time.

“I grew up playing computer games like SimCity and Civilization, so it’s like I’m playing a computer game creating ‘super pretzels’ and I have my little armies of pretzels on the map,” Winston added. “Maybe I won’t build an international empire, but it’s fun to dream.”

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