The Inception 

It is a familiar sight to see a man kneading dough in the little corner of Curbside Crafters as early as 9am. Soon after, the scent of bagels, freshly made scrambled eggs will fill the room. 

It’s been two years since the opening of Keen’s Bagelry at Curbside Crafters and the brand has been featured by the likes of Seth Liu, Miss Tiam Chiak, Daniel Food Diary, and more. Keen’s Bagelry is well loved by locals and tourists and it is not uncommon to see snaking queues and brisk business on all days of the week. The bagels at Keen’s have been described as light, fluffy and flavourful but the star of the show is truly the classic combinations of ingredients cooked to perfection. 

Keen’s Bagelry closed its doors at Curbside Crafters on 27 December 2023 and will reopen at a brand new bigger space in the CBD area. At the brink of Keen’s Bagelry’s departure, the Curbside Crafters team sat down with the brand’s namesake, the man, the myth and the legend – Keen – to learn more about his journey towards starting and growing his business. 

While others were embarking on high paying tech internships while in university, Keen took up an internship at a local bakery in the heartlands. While this was surely an unusual choice, it laid the foundation for Keen’s future endeavour as a young business owner looking to bring his customers a type of bagel that they hadn’t seen before. 

Keen notes that one of his biggest inspiration is Kepo Bagels in Tokyo where he had even visited and met the sensei there. With a similar methodology and style of crafting bagels, Keen set out to “transform the bagel to suit local needs,” and that was exactly what he did.

From Inspiration to Brick and Mortar

Having a solid product is one thing, but setting up shop at a brick and mortar store is a whole different ball game. When Keen sought out his first physical store, he knew it was not going to be easy, but with some savvy tips such as carouselling secondhand commercial ovens and fridges, he was able to “piece [his store up] just with a fraction of the initial cost”.

Beyond the investments in his products, menu, and equipment, he set out to find a unit that offered a good “dollar per value rent”. Curbside was a great location for Keen to test out to concept and test the market with a reasonable starting rent. Beyond having a space that is just enough for a brand that is starting out, Curbside has been synonymous with community. 

In Keen’s own words, “Basically, everyone just knows each other for a very long period of time. And then even some of them during our emergency times (…), they will help. We will buy drinks for each other. We will ask, How are we doing? That kind of thing. I think this is something that you cannot find anywhere else, honestly (…) there’s a lot of networking to be done”. 

 

Keen’s Bagelry: An ‘overnight sensation’ 

When one googles for the top bagel stores in Singapore, Keen’s Bagelry will surely be listed as one the must try destinations. So how did Keen reach this level of fame in spite of never doing any in-house marketing?

When asked about his secret to success, Keen smiles and says “definitely my customers themselves, and all the foodies, and just basically my whole bagel community”. He proudly says that “[all the marketing” is done up by our followers, basically our community. Every time they come, different individuals spend a lot of time and effort taking videos, pictures on TikTok, everything. It’s quite accumulative”. 

Beyond his loyal fans and customers, Keen reiterates the importance of community and networking, by simply saying “I think people”. Whether its the mentors, friends, family, or even the crafting community within Curbside Crafters, Keen’s Bagelry truly grew alongside our ever-growing community of crafters and business owners. 

 

The Future 

After 2 years at Curbside Crafters, Keen’s Bagelry has truly outgrown the space at Curbside. At his new location, he will be able to offer more seating and also grow the Bagel family “with more members”. Here at Curbside Crafters, we wish him all the best.