EAST AURORA, N.Y. — Joe White and Anna Hartzell didn't always set out to get into the bagel business. Joe was a musician for the better part of a decade and traveled all over.
While he was on the road, Anna held down the fort at home and worked various jobs in the restaurant industry.
When Joe's band went their separate ways, he started working HVAC jobs with his brother. That work, on top of years of repetitive movements playing instruments and loading his equipment, took a toll on his body. He developed nerve blocks in both arms and was in excruciating pain. At the end of 2019, he had back-to-back surgeries, followed by physical therapy to regain movement.
"There was this poor dude in the corner, playing with this big ball of Play-Doh and kneading it. I was like, 'I've got to get out of here,' and I'm taking matters into my own hands," said White.
By matters, he means dough. His brother gave him a sourdough starter, so he experimented with making pizza dough and bread. He got pretty good at it, so he tried his hand at bagels. Not only was kneading dough great therapy but turns out, that White was pretty good at it and made some tasty creations.
"I started slowly just mixing it with one hand. The first loaf, we thought it was the bee's knees," said White.
There were many more loaves after that, and family and friends were the taste testers.
Joe worked for a local bakery for a while, but in February 2021, he and his fiancée decided to open their own business — Dopest Dough. They started in a shared kitchen and sold at the market, but now have their own space on Main Street in East Aurora.
"People will come up to us and go, 'You really got something going,' and Joe and I will look at each other and go, 'Do we?' It's just still amazing to us that we've gotten to this point," said Hartzell.
The storefront should open sometime in the fall. Right now, the focus is on pre-orders and baking for local businesses like Community Beer Works.
Dopest Dough is at the Hamburg Farmers Market every week, and they do pre-orders for breakfast sandwiches on select Sunday mornings.
They work seven days a week — just the two of them.
"We can make it if we try," laughs White.
For White, baking is a creative outlet, and he's constantly working to achieve mastery.
"I just love the whole process and science. It's wizardry," said White. "If you're making bagels, they've got to be good. [They should have] a nice deeply colored crust, should have a little give but should fight you a little bit. A good bagel shouldn't taste like a slice of white bread."
Their recipe for success combines hard work, pride, a dash of disbelief, and the desire to keep the customers coming back for more.
"On a Friday night you're like oh my god, we are in way over our head. What are we doing? Saturday we are like, that was fun. Let's do it again!" said Hartzell.