Joe Penn and Devon Malloy of Tov Bagel
Joe Penn and Devon Malloy are bringing bagels back to Detroit. (Jerry Zolynsky/Detroit Jewish News)

Tov Bagel is selling its innovative flavors and large schmear selection out of the ASHE Supply Co. café at 1555 Broadway St.

A little rain couldn’t dampen the spirits of three young bagelers in Detroit.

The Aug. 28 grand opening of Tov Bagel’s new downtown location proceeded as planned, despite disagreeable weather. The newest bagel shop on the block is selling its innovative flavors and large schmear selection out of the ASHE Supply Co. café at 1555 Broadway St., via an outdoor, socially distanced walk-up counter.

Tov Bagel is the brainchild of Joe Penn, 23, from Boston; Devon Malloy, 23, from Lancaster, Pa.; and Dan Lenz, 24, from Evanston, Ill. They all moved to Detroit’s Woodbridge neighborhood in July 2019 as members of the entrepreneur fellowship program Venture For America, and, as bagel fanatics, made weekly pilgrimages to the nearby Detroit Institute of Bagels.

For the last year, the housemates also entertained each other by making experimental bagels on a breadmaker that once belonged to Malloy’s grandmother. When COVID-19 kicked in, “we now had the opportunity to bake all the time, because we were always home,” Malloy said.

“I’ve eaten a bagel every morning for my entire life,” said Penn, who was active in NFTY growing up. Though Penn is the group’s only Jew, bagel culture has bonded the trio to Jewish life; they even celebrate Shabbat together.

With most of Metro Detroit’s bagel mainstays located in the suburbs, Tov saw an opening for their product in the city itself, and partnered with Dayne Bartscht, owner of Eastern Market Brewing Company, to bake and sell their bagels out of his ASHE locations. This June, Tov Bagel opened its first outpost, at the Ferndale Project (formerly Axle Brewing Co.) on 567 Livernois in Ferndale. Tov bakes its bagels in Ferndale but sells them from both locations.

The name, Penn said, doesn’t just mean “Good Bagel”; it’s an homage to “Tov” as Israeli slang. “[It’s] more of an acknowledgment: ‘Tov, I see you,’” he said.

And what must be acknowledged are the fanciful flavors, which look to bridge the gap between old-world bagel tradition and the millennial/gen-Z appetite for cutting-edge baked goods. There are new spins on old favorites (sea salt with rosemary; black-and-white sesame) and original flavors (za’atar; cracked pepper asiago). Half of their schmears are vegan. Tov is betting that bagels are the next big thing among trendy foodies.

“I’ve always felt that bagel shops have the ability to be a lot more creative than they are,” Penn said. “Bagels are an awesome base that you can put so many cool things on.”

The Tov team would like to open their own shop within the next year, barring a certain pandemic. They also plan to add challah to their lineup.

Tov Bagel is open Tues.-Sat., 8 a.m.-2 p.m., at 1555 Broadway St. in Detroit and Tues.-Sun., 9 a.m.-2 p.m., at 567 Livernois in Ferndale. Detroit location is walk-up service only. Ferndale location is curbside pick-up and dine-in on their patio.

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