When life gives you lemons – if you’re Joe White and Anna Hartzell – you toss them aside and start baking.
EAST AURORA, NY – Joe White and Anna Hartzell haven’t always been looking to get into the bagel business. Joe has been a musician for the better part of a decade and has traveled everywhere.
While on the road, Anna held the fort at home and held various jobs in the restaurant industry.
When Joe’s band broke up, he started working in HVAC with his brother. This work, in addition to years of repetitive movements to play instruments and load his equipment, took a toll on his body. He developed nerve blocks in both arms and was in excruciating pain. In late 2019, he underwent back-to-back surgeries, followed by physical therapy to regain movement.
“There was this poor guy in the corner, playing with this big ball of Play-Doh and kneading it. I was like, ‘I have to get out of here,’ and I’m taking matters into my own hands,” Blanc said. .
By material, he means the 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 it turns out White was pretty good at it and made some tasty creations.
“I slowly started mixing it with one hand. The first loaf we thought was the bee’s knees,” White said.
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 paste. They started out in a communal 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 say, ‘You really have something going on,’ and Joe and I will look at each other and say, ‘Do we? It’s still amazing for us to have come to this,” Hartzell said.
The storefront is expected to open 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 Farmer’s 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 get there if we try,” laughs White.
For White, baking is a creative outlet, and he constantly works to achieve mastery.
“I love the whole process and the science. It’s magic,” White said. “If you’re making bagels, they have to be good. [They should have] a nice deep colored crust, should have a bit of suppleness but should fight you a bit. A good bagel shouldn’t taste like a slice of white bread.”
Their recipe for success combines hard work, pride, a touch of disbelief and the desire to retain customers.
“A Friday night, you’re like oh my god, we’re way over our heads. What are we doing? Saturday, we’re like, that was fun. Let’s do it again!” said Hartzell.