Schmear It Goes From Food Truck to Permanent Store
When David Fine founded Schmear It, a start-up company selling bagels from a food truck, he didn’t see other local Philadelphia bagel joints as his competition. In fact, he chose South Street Philly Bagels as his supplier. “There’s enough room for all of us as long as everyone is trying to do their unique thing,” he said.
Schmear It’s unique thing was its mission of combining the pursuit of social good with high-quality products and customer service.
Fine, who got to know food trucks at the University of Pennsylvania during his time as an undergraduate, noticed a gap in the market in University City–there was nowhere to get a good bagel. Having worked at another non–profit, Community Health Charities of Maryland before, he wondered if there was a way to fill this gap while maintaining a social mission.
Fine cites Toms and Warby Parker as examples of companies he admires for accomplishing social missions on a large scale through a successful for-profit brand. “I wondered if I could do that within the food industry,” he said.
And so he founded the Schmear It food truck, which offers a variety of bagels with customizable spreads made with fresh ingredients.
“A food truck is a slightly lower startup cost,” he said. “And if you ask, ‘why bagels?’ it was a) because I didn’t have a traditional culinary background and b) because I knew that Penn needed bagels.”
Since then, Philadelphia has undergone something of a bagel boom–in the past five years, Knead Bagels, Philly Style Bagels, and the new Spread Bagelry have opened their doors. And now, Schmear It has graduated from a mere food truck to a permanent brick-and-mortar location.
During the soft opening on Wednesday November 2nd, guests were asked to “pay what you wish” with proceeds going to The Bethesda Project. Apparently, guests wished to pay over $1,000 in donations. The event also included the opportunity for guests to draw on paper cutouts of houses in order to raise awareness for the project.
“I’d love to say that we were cutting multi-thousand dollar checks,” said Fine. “But it just isn’t feasible. So the awareness, that intangible marketing piece, is also very big for us.”
Fine explains that his business model is three-fold. “It’s this unique customizable option for breakfast, it’s the social impact and it’s phenomenal customer service.”
“It starts with the most basic of genuine smiles,” he said. “It’s cool serving breakfast because you’re often the first person this customer is interacting with in the morning. And it’s amazing what a smile and a really nice greeting can do.”
Fine believes that the relationships he and his staff form with customers transcend the product itself. He believes it is this element that makes for customer loyalty.
“They’re coming for more than just a bagel. They’re coming because we actually take an interest in their lives,” he said. “That’s the idea for us, to add just a little bit of meaning to people’s morning routines.”
Every two weeks, Schmear It features a new local cause for which they raise awareness and to which they donate a portion of their profits.
The new store offers not only the various bagels and customizable schmears of the food truck, but also introduces egg sandwiches and yogurt parfaits. Fine hopes to continue with this model while adding different bases seasonally. “In the winter it will be oatmeal, in the summer maybe it’s smoothies, or maybe it’s acai bowls,” he said. “It’s the same concept of adding customizable fresh ingredients to a base.”
And so Fine was not concerned about opening a permanent bagel shop right on the heels and around the corner of the new Spread Bagelry. “If I were trying to make the best Montreal bagel with a very similar menu, it might be different,” he said. But, then again, if that were the case he wouldn’t have started the company in the first place. “I came in with the intention of making something new and unique,” he said. “I’m constantly trying to evolve that.”
Schmear It [f8b8z]