“Beigel saved my life,” says owner Rick Carroll. “There are no other words for it.”
Nestled on a lawn with picnic benches outside, it’s a place where you can pick up a lovingly made lunch, of course – but also a safe space where you can browse a book, have a chat, or just sit and take a break from the busyness of business.
Rick came up with the concept in May 2020, during lockdown.
“Having been in corporate sales for 30 years, I’d started a new job thinking that was my career,” he says. “Then in March 2020, I lost my job.
“I was already struggling massively with my mental health, thinking that I’d reached my rock bottom with depression and anxiety. I was already going through a lot of turmoil. Then to add to that, Covid struck.”
Rick started making bagels, or beigels – “my mother-in-law is Jewish, so it’s a nod to that heritage” – during the pandemic.
Delivering bagels every Friday to households across Greater Manchester, they were bombarded with orders and had to increase deliveries to two days a week and then gradually more.
“It was about creating alternative lunches with great fillings, made with love and care, in what was already a difficult time,” he says.
“About me giving something back, as well as trying to make a living, support my family and look after my mental health.”
The owner of Manchester city centre coffee company, ManCoCo, loved the creations so much he asked Beigel to supply their coffee house.
It was at this point Rick realised he could no longer run his business from home and decided to sign up for a lease on a shipping container at MediaCity – which coincided with the Van Gogh Alive exhibition.
And as time has gone on, Rick has developed a deep connection to his bagels, which he now sells from his serene set-up at MediaCity.
“No two bagels are the same, they’re not all round; they’re all individual, they’re all different – and I think that translates into us as human beings,” he says.
The first bagel he made was a BLT, he recalls.
“I was watching a programme about the nation’s favourite sandwiches, and the bacon butty came out number one,” he says.
“Then because I was able to get my hands on a cheese bagel, I thought that was going to take it to another level. With great lettuce, vine tomatoes, good quality locally sourced smoked bacon, and then add cheese to the mix… It sells really, really well.”
Having tried one ourselves, we can fully see why.
“From there we devised a menu that catered for vegetarians, for everybody, and things have just evolved. It’s always about how we can do things better,” he says.
Now, fillings include the classic hot salt beef with gherkins and mustard, as well as hot brisket on an onion bagel, halloumi with homemade chilli jam and lemon aioli on a poppy seed bagel, and mozzarella with tomato, red onion and homemade pesto, as well as a range of specials.
There’s also ManCoCo coffee, muffins and bakes from BB’S Kitchen, and a selection of swoonworthy sweet treats from Little B’s Cakery in Cheadle – think fabulously fudgy Mars bar and Kinder bueno brownies or a decadent Malteser and Rolo cookie pie.
But there’s much more to Beigel than just food.
“I create a safe space down here. That’s what it’s all about,” says Rick.
“First, it’s about my mental health, because without that, I’m no good to me, my family or the wider community.
“This is a 24/7 thing, I’m making bagels seven days a week. I try to be the best version of me I can be every single day.
“And hopefully that gives other people inspiration, and hope. I’m not always going to have good days. We all have good days and bad days.
“But one thing you can trust is that you can come down here, I won’t expect you to buy a bagel, a coffee, a cake or anything.
“If you just want to come down here and escape for half an hour, then that’s really important to me.”
No matter if, and how, the brand expands – “it would be nice to take Beigel on the road, or perhaps we could do other things here, podcasts for mental health maybe?” he says it would still “always have the same feel.”
The venue is certainly relaxing, with pretty rugs and a little seating area with a selection of books.
“How it looks is all me, it all comes out of my pocket,” says Rick. “I’m always getting things to make it more zen-like.
“The rest will follow. Good things happen to good people. All I can be is the best, the most authentic version of me.
“Growing up as a teenager, I was always trying to fit in. But getting to rock bottom has taught me that what will be, will be.
“I live for the moment, right here right now. I don’t worry about the past, the past has gone; I can’t predict the future. And I just have to take what comes – the rest will fall into place.
“I can’t help everybody, I can’t be on the end of the phone for everyone, but I might be able to point them in the right direction. Or maybe I’m having a really good day, and a hug is enough.
“What I say is, when I make my bagels and you take them away, you get a bagel hug.”
Who could ask for more than that from their lunch?
Find Beigel at MediaCity, in the Gardens next to the Piazza.