by Brian Lamar, Contributing Writer

Stef Jantz was a Seabee and her body was showing the wear and tear of a rough and tumble career in the Navy. The prognosis from the docs wasn’t good. With tears in her eyes, she read the documents that would ultimately lead her to the end of her Navy career.

Just like any good Seabee. She let herself grieve for a Mississippi minute and then she started making a plan.

“I knew I only had a short time left in the Navy before my medical retirement. I didn’t just want to get out to do a job that wasn’t my passion. My passion had been serving my country. That chapter of my life was ending. That’s when a friend took me aside and gave me some advice that changed my life,” said Jantz.

A coworker who had been close to Jantz during her transition suggested that she should harness her passion for baking. Jantz was known in her Battalion for bringing treats to her coworkers and they loved her for it. Her friend reminded her of the need for good bagels on the coast. Immediately Jantz knew that she had a plan forming in her head.

Although Jantz knew her baking skills were good based on the feedback from her coworkers and friends, she also knew that making bagels was a specialty that she needed to practice. For the next few months, Jantz painstakingly cultivated her own unique recipes and processes for making bagels. With each batch that she brought to work, her coworkers got happier and happier.

“I basically would go home every day and research, test, bake and repeat until I got it right,” Jantz explained.

Jantz also realized that even though she could bake, she needed to get wise on the business side of things.

“I enrolled at the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College’s Culinary Arts Program. From there, I learned about everything from day-to-day operations, finance, and the SBA process,” she said.

Once Jantz felt her education was up to par, she started researching and purchasing the equipment she would need. She searched all over for a good spot to set up shop. She eventually found a space near the railroad tracks on Beatline Rd. in Long Beach.

“Once I was open, customers began rolling in. Business has been wonderful. I feel so supported by this community. I think it is a win-win. The customers enjoy my products and I am making enough business to keep the doors open,” said Jantz.

Many believe that Jantz called her store BagelBees due to her tie to the Seabees.

“Why bees? It is not because I was in the Seabees. I was thinking that there aren’t many fresh bagels in the South and because of that, we were going to be busy bees. I thought about it for a while and I just kept seeing bee signs everywhere,” she said with a laugh.

Since opening on Beatline, the only real problem she has had is the size of her storefront. Due to demand, she wants more refrigeration space to showcase her other creations that fly off the shelves like her pimento cheese, which has received rave reviews on her social media platforms.

Jantz feels that her most popular bagel is the everything bagel. Although, she can never tell when a certain bagel flavor will be the hot item for that week.

Jantz’s future plans possibly involve expanding a second location into Orange Grove due to demand for her bagels in that area.

Since her original idea, there have been bagel shops that have been built in Long Beach and OS.

As a small business owner, Jantz has dealt with the same issues as everyone else including supply shortages, rising costs of raw materials, and lack of being able to add to her staff due to labor shortages. Through it all, she has persevered and even made a name for her business.

“We have won a few awards that have given us so much to be proud of. We earned the Gulf Coast Woman Magazine — Reader Approved badge for being top in the rankings for best small business. We also were awarded with the Magazine’s vote for Best places to eat in 2021 — voted the best breakfast and best bagels on the coast. Just recently, we received 2nd place in the restaurant category for ads with the Mississippi Press Association,” she explained.

With Jantz’s long road from the personal loss of her Navy career, it is a story of overcoming adversity and thriving. Not only is she happy with the product she has created, but she is also excited about the impact she is making with her customers.

“It is heartwarming the way we have impacted others’ lives and that was my main goal. If we are closed on a day that we are typically open or even on the weekend, people will come in on Tuesday and have been craving our bagels. We are excited to get big orders for parties for the teachers and other organizations. It makes their day better. One customer who had caught COVID had lost her sense of taste and smell, but for some reason, she could still taste my cinnamon rolls. My favorite thing is turning pimento haters into lovers. People try my homemade pimento cheese and keep coming back,” said Jantz. “It is awesome how food changes people’s attitude. The magazine and newspaper awards are nice, but hearing the feedback of how people enjoy grabbing a bagel and it hits the spot is the reward we are looking for.

BagelBees

Address: 4013 Beatline Rd Suite C, Long Beach, MS 39560

Phone: (228) 222-4145

Hours: Tuesday 6:30AM-3:30 PM, Wednesday    6:30AM–3:30PM, Thursday    6:30AM–3:30PM, Friday    6:30AM–3:30PM, Saturday    7AM–2PM