Everything With a Schmear:
How HFLA Helped Keep Rosen’s Bagels Afloat
By Craig Gilden | May 2021
Tom Rosen of Rosen's Bagels
In February 2020, Rosen’s Bagel Company was on the verge of signing a lease for a brick and mortar location which would be the culmination of three years of hard work building a business for Austin resident Tom Rosen. The company had grown to hosting an occasional pop-up at Wright Brothers Brewery to being sold at more than 25 coffee shops and additional grocery stores such as Whole Foods across the Austin area as well as a team of close to 10 employees. Rosen’s dream was coming true, until overnight, it wasn’t. The COVID-19 pandemic led to the closure of businesses and slowing down of daily life across the world, including all the locations in which Rosen’s bagels were sold.
Rosen moved to Austin in 2013 to pursue a PhD in Sociology from UT Austin. He came with a culinary background and was interested in researching why people eat what they eat, but ultimately decided the doctoral route wasn’t for him. He did decide to remain in Austin, but his passions led him in a new direction, “I loved Austin, but I couldn’t find a good bagel,” he said.
Around this time, Rosen began experimenting making bagels with friends, “I became enamored with the process, it is labor intensive and takes a full 48 hours to complete.” It took Rosen at least six months of experimentation and having friends serve as taste testers before he felt comfortable thinking about selling them. Over the next few years Rosen perfected the process and built up the business, until the COVID-19 pandemic hit Austin.
In 2019, a friend of Rosen’s introduced him to the Hebrew Free Loan Association of Austin (HFLA), which provides no interest loans to Jewish residents of Central Texas in need. He sponsored a fundraising event by HFLA that year and the connection ended up being very fortuitous. Rosen estimates that at least 60% of the wholesale business was gone by April 2020 and facing an inability to pay his employees, Rosen applied and received a loan from HFLA. “It is not an exaggeration to say that the loan sustained the business. There are a lot of predatory loans out there for small business owners that have high interest. HFLA allowed me to make the best decision for my business before I got desperate and considered something that I normally wouldn’t.” said Rosen. During an uncertain time as a small business owner, the HFLA loan kept Rosen’s bagels afloat, “HFLA was a lifesaver, it provided some security and freed me to not worry about whether I could pay my employees or take-home salary for myself.”
More than a year after COVID-19 changed the world, Rosen’s Bagel Company has weathered the crisis by adapting the business. Rosen’s bagels are still being sold at grocery stores and coffee shops across the Austin area such as Biderman’s Deli, Royal Blue Groceries, Whole Foods and more. Additionally, the bagels can now be delivered to your home or business, including purchasing frozen bagels to cook and eat later. Rosen is optimistic that signing a lease for a brick and mortar store is soon. Rosen credits the hand up from HFLA for making a big difference, “it was essential during the first few months of COVID, a period that was deeply concerning as a small business owner. HFLA made it possible.” You can visit Rosen’s Bagel Company at www.rosensbagels.com.
During the month of May 2021, for those who donate at least $100 in Tom’s honor, HFLA will send a dozen bagels delivered to your address from Rosen’s Bagel Company. When making your donation, include “in honor of Tom Rosen” or “Rosen’s Bagels” to take advantage of this offer. (This offer is available only for those in the Austin area).