Written by Kaitlin Hill
Photos by Austin Kaseman
“What was always missing was a bagel shop,” shares Nils Schnibbe, co-owner of Bkd. Bagels in Leesburg. Schnibbe, along with partners Sam Athanas and Tony Davis, filled that void in October when they opened Bkd. Bagels on King Street. Originally a delivery operation, Bkd. Bagels quickly earned legions of breakfast sandwich fans forming lines around the block of their recently installed storefront. But more than supplying a demand, it is Bkd. Bagels’ homegrown recipe, a menu full of creative combos, and customer care that has locals coming back for more and fueled the demand for a second outpost coming this spring.
“My wife and I, strictly as a hobby, had been making bagels out of our house,” Davis says. “I just messed with the recipe for a couple of years, it was just for fun.” Encouragement from a friend inspired Davis to “do something more with it” which resulted in Davis and his wife, Brittany, starting a bagel delivery operation. “We were dividing and conquering, delivering the bagels. But as demand grew, holy smokes, we were delivering for three hours.” And Schnibbe, owner of a handful of Leesburg establishments, remembers, “He was delivering them all over the county and was looking for a drop-off location. So, we offered SideBar Coffee downtown as a drop-off.”
“My wife and I got to know Nils and Sam, and they are just wonderful people with wonderful families,” Davis shares. And soon, they proved to be wonderful business partners too. “You have moments in your life where you just feel it in your gut that you are connected with good people. So, my wife and I took a calculated roll of the dice and said, ‘Let’s see what happens here.’”
Not only the partnership but also the premises seemed to be the product of providence too. “We weren’t actively looking for a brick-and-mortar location, and it was just [Davis’] business at that point. But the location became available, and we all thought it would be a perfect fit,” Schnibbe remembers.
The Leesburg storefront opened in October 2021 and quickly earned a reputation for its “Loudoun-style” bagels and serious sandwiches. “It’s a Loudoun bagel because it is made here, it’s made with Loudoun water, Leesburg water. That’s why we call it a Loudoun bagel,” Schnibbe explains. The descriptor is also meant to distinguish the bagel from a New York bagel. “It’s not like New York, but it is still an amazingly delicious bagel.” Schnibbe continues, “It’s made fresh every day, it’s baked in-house and it’s hand-rolled. There’s no machine involved. It’s all hand-rolled, boiled, and baked in front of your eyes every morning.”
Bkd. offers their Loudoun take on all the classic flavors including plain, everything, sesame, poppy, salt, and cinnamon raisin, with some creative recipes like jalapeno-cheddar, blueberry, and rye-dill.
Those bagels are the basis for stacked sandwiches – for breakfast or for lunch. The Hangover is their jazzed-up take on a classic sausage, egg, and cheese with added whipped cream cheese and hash browns for good measure. “That’s the most popular,” Schnibbe notes. He adds, “But my personal favorite is The Clubhouse on an everything bagel. If you add avocado to it, it’s so good.” He finishes, “They’re all very good. Anything on the menu, I could eat.”
The bagel recipe and sandwich combinations are “all down to Tony,” Schnibbe says. And Davis adds, “It’s all trial and error. And that’s something that I want to continue, to push the unique selection because that is the fun part.” They even do a customer creation competition which can result in some truly unique combinations. “I think that it is so cool to get people involved,” Davis says.
They get local bakers involved too to cover baked goods they can’t produce themselves. “We’re really good at bagels, but not pastries. And we are not a full-sized bakery. We wanted to offer some more sweet options, so we partnered with locals,” Schnibbe explains. They even source gluten-free bagel options from The Difference Baker just down the road in Ashburn. “We buy from her, so we have that option. We have a separate toaster for those,” Schnibbe says.
The unique offerings at Bkd. Bagels earned them dedicated fans and the support of the community. “We’ve felt very embraced and so many people who I’ve never met send us messages, I feel like we’re buddies,” Davis shares. That support and, like the first store, another unsought but welcome opportunity has inspired them to open a second location. “When the second location became available, we definitely were not looking for it,” Davis shares. He adds, “It’s this beautiful, charming, 100-plus-year-old house in Purcellville.” And Schnibbe says, “It was such a good opportunity, we just had to do it.”
If bagels and baked goods weren’t enough, Bkd. Bagels also offers craft beer, mimosas, and wines. Of the decision to include adult beverages Schnibbe says, “I’m originally from Germany, and I’ll drink a beer with anything. So, I thought we had to have it.” He adds, “And everybody felt the same, Tony thought the same, Sam thought the same. We were all on the same page.”
The new shop is slated to open this spring with the same offerings of bagels, schmears, beers, and bubbles. “I think March slash April…We’ve got the blueprint down, we just have to roll it out now,” Davis says.
For Davis, Schnibbe, and Athanas, success is a team effort, and they credit their staff with helping them make Bkd. Bagels big. “I think the biggest thing is that we have an incredible team of people that are working with us.” Davis continues, “I can’t emphasize enough how lucky we are to have the people that we have in this place. It is such a special group in the kitchen, in the front of the house. I am thankful every day for everybody involved.”
For those who haven’t had the Bkd. Bagels experience, it is well worth the visit. And Davis, Schnibbe, and Athanas are only too eager to greet you. “Come on out and check us out. You can’t get any fresher, any tastier than our bagels. Treat yourself,” Schnibbe finishes with a laugh. ML
This article first appeared in the February 2022 Issue.