Tastemakers 2019: Kevin Crowley, Owner of The Lox Bagel Shop

Making carbs cool again
Kevin Crowley at The Lox Bagel Shop

After six years as a partner in Northstar Café, Kevin Crowley branched out on his own to open The Lox Bagel Shop, a hip, New York-meets-Montreal bagel restaurant in the Short North.

Why He’s a Tastemaker: Bagels certainly aren’t new to Columbus, but judging by the quick success of Crowley’s bagel shop, the city seems to be falling in love with them all over again. The buzz is justified. Thanks to Crowley’s attention to detail, The Lox is already an essential Columbus spot known for carefully crafted, wood-fired bagels complemented by luscious pastrami or lox and cream cheese.

Quality Comes First: While grappling with ideas for his own business, Crowley and his wife, Jenna, traveled the country and noticed a resurgence in artisan breads and bagels. The idea of a bagel shop started as a joke between them, but he took a class at Black Seed Bagels in New York City, worked briefly at the bagel shop Detroit Institute of Bagels and began developing recipes at home. Crowley’s goal is to be really good at that one thing, to be “unrelenting in the quality of technique and quality of ingredients.” He plans to add one or two more locations in Columbus, but his primary commitment is perfecting the concept. “That’s the hardest thing—remembering that we can’t be all things to all people,” he says. “We’re really trying to focus on something we can do well and make sure we’re great at it before we move on or expand.”

Photo by Tim Johnson

A Nod to Partners: Crowley is also quick to pay tribute to his partners in the business, from Jenna’s skill with social media and design to (2013 Tastemaker) chef Silas Caeton’s turn as managing partner. “He really helped get this thing off the ground,” Crowley says. “I’m almost intentionally not connected to the Columbus restaurant scene, and he is. He’s indispensible.” While Caeton served as the executive chef for Cosecha Cocina, Crowley began pitching him on the bagel shop. “I courted him a little bit, took him to Chicago to the restaurant show,” Crowley says. “For him, it was a leap of blind faith. He hadn’t eaten my food.” Caeton formally joined the team in mid-2018. “Sixty, seventy percent of the business was formulated in my head,” Crowley says. “The rest was the collaborative nature of us together. That’s a unique situation in my 20-plus years in restaurants.”

Helping the Next Generation: Much like his experience at Northstar, Crowley envisions using his bagel shop to help employees pursue their own dreams, bringing them on as partners in future locations and then using his resources to assist them. He recognizes that taking care of his employees and being open to their ideas leads to a better overall product. “If you treat them right, you’re going to get the best of the best,” which will translate into the best customer service, he says. “[Your staff] is the only thing that should matter, other than keeping the doors open.”

Age: 37

Hometown: Cincinnati

Previous gig: Northstar Café

Recommended reading: “Leaders Eat Last” by Simon Sinek

Dream last meal: “Hanging with my family with a steak on the grill is about all I could want.”

Always in his fridge:  “Calabrian chiles, good anchovies and bacon—for that last-minute pasta craving”

@theloxbagelshop on Instagram

Kevin Crowley