Tacoma’s kitschy, gay cowboy-themed Howdy Bagel is back in business as of Wednesday, February 7. The reopening comes a month after co-owner Jake Carter was killed during a mugging while traveling in New Orleans — and fans were out in force to support one of the region’s best bagel shops as it attempts to recover from tragedy.
Carter had been vacationing with his husband, Howdy Bagel co-owner Daniel Blagovich, on January 5 when Carter was shot by a robber and died at the scene. (A 16-year-old suspect has been arrested and charged with second-degree murder in connection with the incident.)
Since then, Howdy has been closed. To support Blagovich and the bagel shop’s team, donations have poured in through a GoFundMe campaign that raised $300,000 as well as through benefit shows held around Tacoma. One at the New Frontier Lounge brought in more than $8,700 last weekend.
Now, the shop is open once more, and the infamous bagel line, she is back as well. “It’s been slammed all day,” staff member Gabe Alves de Lima tells Eater Seattle. “Around 7 a.m., there was already a line.” For the first few months after it opened, Howdy Bagel attracted a line halfway down the block, and would reliably sell out of bagels around noon at the latest. Reopening day was no different; the shop was down to about a dozen sesame bagels by 12:30 p.m.
The line was as chatty as ever, with total strangers conversing as though they were old friends. “What kind of bagel are you gonna get?” one customer asked everyone around them as they waited, then offered their opinion on the menu options. When another customer asked if the person worked there, they were met with a laugh. “Oh, no, I’m just an excited fan!”
That enthusiastic customer recommended the Lox in a Box, by the way: That’s a sandwich featuring cold-smoked lox by Sea Bear Smokehouse in Anacortes, accompanied by lemon-dill cream cheese, capers, pickled red onions, Graza olive oil, black pepper, and fresh dill, and served open-faced on a Howdy Bagel of one’s choice.
In the center of the shop, a memorial and a guest book were displayed, and folks waited their turn to add their sentiments about Carter. One note read, “Standing in line today and all days for those who can’t be here. Love to you always.” Another said, “Jake, you were the rarest kind of person, 100 percent authentic and an absolute joy, even to the people you barely knew. The magic of this place that you and Daniel made together is resilient and can still be felt even in your absence. Thank you both for bringing this to our community, and thank you for all the work you and the team continue to do.”
For the staff, it’s a mix of grief and relief to have the shop back open. “We’ve been hanging out here a little bit,” de Lima says, “We’ve been coming in, we’ve been prepping stuff. We threw a little pizza party — we took out the dough mixer and made pizza, and that was fun. So yeah, it softened the blow of being back in the space again today.”
Alves de Lima went on: “You know, I expected it to be, like, the hardest day? But it’s been… easier than expected. It’s been a really nice feeling, just to feel all the love and support we have here.”
Howdy Bagel is operating under slightly different hours as it regains its footing: Wednesday through Saturday, 8 a.m to 3 p.m.