MD Bagel Fragel in Ann Arbor a one-woman operation during pandemic

Fresh bagels at MD Bagel Fragel's former location on Plymouth Rd. on Ann Arbor's northside. (Photo: Meredith Bruckner)
Fresh bagels at MD Bagel Fragel's former location on Plymouth Rd. on Ann Arbor's northside. (Photo: Meredith Bruckner)

ANN ARBOR – Owner of MD Bagel Fragel, Patricia Rockette, has been running her shop singlehandedly since March 20.

And by singlehandedly, that means coming into the store at 1 a.m. to bake fresh bagels and make flavored cream cheeses, open for customers at 6:30 a.m. and close at 2:30 p.m. -- seven days a week. She’s only taken four days off since the pandemic hit: Easter, Memorial Day, July 4th and Labor Day.

The days are long, and although she could use the extra help, Rockette said she can’t afford to pay extra employees.

“I work seven days a week, open to close, just so that we can pay the rent and the bills,” said Rockette.

In late 2018, Rockette was given short notice to close her shop on Plymouth Rd. where she had been in business for 25 years. At the time, longtime customers jumped in to help fundraise to save the shop. It took Rockette over a year to find a new space and build it out.

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She reopened her shop at her new location across from Arborland in February -- just one month before the first coronavirus case was confirmed in Michigan. Since then, she said she’s been in survival mode.

Owner Patricia Rockette and her niece Megan Jernigan in MD Bagel Fragel's new shop at 3500 Washtenaw Ave. on Jan. 24, 2020. (Meredith Bruckner)

Her niece, Megan Jernigan, helped her reopen the store, but soon had to find another job.

While she said weekends are starting to pick up again, weekdays are very slow. She bakes one third of the bagels she used to bake before the pandemic hit, and she’s had to raise prices due to rising food costs.

“I tried not to (raise prices) but I have no choice,” said Rockette. “In the food industry, the price of wheat, the price of flour, everything has gone up so much. Even napkins and gloves. People don’t realize how much goes into it.”

As her regular customers know, her bagels tend to sell out quickly. However, with so many people working or studying from home, weekday sales are lagging.

“They used to get tons of bagels to take into the office or to take into school,” said Rockette. “And now, they’re just coming in to get four bagels to take home. Because nobody goes anywhere. Their big meetings are on Zoom.”

Rockette said the best bet for getting an exact order is to call at least one day ahead of time.

“I tell everybody to call in your order and you can have everything you want,” she said.

MD Bagel Fragel is at 3500 Washtenaw Ave. and is carryout only. To place an order, call 734-929-2756.

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