Inspiration can strike at any time. For Veronica Carrillo, it was in the early 1990s while she was waiting in line at a busy bagel shop in Lake Tahoe. The former auto wholesaler thought bagels might be a profitable, untapped market in her hometown of Watsonville. She learned to make fluffy and soft bagels using a family friend’s recipe, and Bagel Café and Bakery was born. Now, there are over 20 bagel varieties offered, including ongoing hits, strawberry and cinnamon sugar.
In addition to bagels, the Watsonville staple serves coffee, sandwiches, salads, scones, muffins, croissants and desserts—the house-made fruit tarts and chocolate mocha cake are longtime customer faves.
Open every day from 5am-7pm for grab-and-go, there’s also an outdoor garden patio where diners can relax and enjoy their food. Carrillo spoke with GT about Bagel Café’s early days and the backbone of the business: exceptional customer service.
Talk about that moment when you knew you wanted to open a bagel shop.
VERONICA CARRILLO: When I started in 1993, there were no other bagel/coffee shops in town. Many of my friends and family discouraged me from opening the business, saying they didn’t think Watsonville would embrace a bagel spot. We literally started with one coffee pot and just a couple of bagel options. A few months after we opened, it was just me and one other employee working the counter, and I just remember looking up and seeing a line out the door and thinking, “Oh Lord, we’ll never keep up with just one coffee pot.” That was the moment I thought that I had a pretty good shot of making it.
How do you give the business a personal touch?
We are a small, family-owned business, and there are not many places where the owners are there and involved every day like my husband and I are. And it’s important because we are both from Watsonville, so we want to give our friends and local family the best experience they can get. We really go out of our way to personally cater to individuals. Even our staff, most have been here 15 years or more, and the customers love that our employees already know their order the second they walk in the door.
1830 Main Street, Watsonville, 831-722-3838; bagelcafebakery.com.