When Suzanne McLean and her husband Brian moved to Manalapan more than two decades ago they were disappointed they could not find a slice of pizza or a bagel like they had known growing up in New York and northern New Jersey.
It took some time, but a little less than three years ago they opened New York Water Bagel Co. in Toms River and in the past few months they opened a second location on Route 9 on the Howell-Freehold border.
New York Water Bagel & Pizza Co. features a wide ranging menu that is open from early in the morning until late into the night. With their new location McLean said it has helped them to fulfill their dream of bringing the tastes they know to the area they call home.
The location has been empty for many years but with their grand opening on Saturday, life has come back by providing another dining alternative near the border with Freehold.
As the name suggests, McLean said one of the things that separates their shop from others in the area is the water they have shipped in to make the dough for their pizza and bagel. Hundreds of gallons of water get trucked in to the location and is then made into the fresh dough.
The result, she said, is a bagel that takes her back to her childhood. "The outside is supposed to be crunchy and the inside is supposed to be soft," she said. "It's not supposed to be real doughy. It's supposed to be light. Dense, but light."
In an area where there are several bagel places and pizza shops fairly close together McLean said the food has to be good, but there is more to it than that. "Everybody is on the same page," she said. "Quality is first, with customer service and our employees also important. We believe in taking care of our customers."
Much like the specific water they use to make their products, McLean said all their ingredients are key to their successes. "Everything we use is what you would use at home," she said. "We don't buy the off brand of anything."
Another aspect of the shop, that sets it apart from just about any other competition in the area is a drive thru window. McLean said when they saw it as a possible use her husband was immediately excited about what it could mean for their business. "He said we can do drive thru. Nobody has a drive thru," she said about their conversations before buying the property.
It may provide a new level of convenience for her customers but McLean said the window provides some challenges for her staff. "It's difficult because you have to have a very limited menu," she said of cutting down from her regular full offering. "There's only certain things you can do in under two or three minutes."
The basic drive thru menu includes the shop's bagels and individual slices of some of their pizzas but McLean said customers can call ahead and order their full pies to be picked up without getting out of their cars.
It has only been a few months, but McLean said she has enjoyed working on the new location especially with it being so much closer to her home. "It's great. It's 17 minutes and I'm home," she said. While she may not see the sun on the drive in or the drive home, McLean said there is definitely something to be said for being self employed. "It's nice to work for yourself. You're killing yourself, but it's for us so it's good."
To learn more about the new shop in town check out their Facebook page.