Tetonscapes: Bagel Time
Wyoming’s original bagel bakery turns 30 in 2020.
By Maggie Theodora
Pearl Street Bagels has been a staple of downtown Jackson for 30 years. Photo by Bradly J. Boner
IT IS BECAUSE of a summer job that Maggie Gibson had at the Burlington Bagel Bakery in Vermont in the 1980s that Jackson Hole has Pearl Street Bagels. Gibson and her husband Les founded the now-iconic bagel bakery in downtown Jackson in 1990. In 2008 they sold the business to three former baristas/managers, one of whom, Heather Gould, says, “It was, and is, a pretty big responsibility to be the owner of a place that is so popular and embedded in the community. From the time we bought it, it was important to all of us to continue with it largely unchanged.” 2020 marks Pearl Street Bagels’ 30th anniversary, a milestone that never crossed the Gibsons’ minds back in 1990.
“Neither of us had ever made bagels before,” says Maggie, who had worked at Burlington Bagel Bakery’s counter, not anywhere near its boiler or oven. “I arranged to buy the recipe and know-how from the Burlington Bagel Bakery though,” she says. “I chose them because their recipe was an authentic New York City boil-and-bake style bagel and it was my favorite.” It wasn’t certain how this recipe would do at Jackson’s elevation, which is more than 6,000 feet higher than Burlington’s, though. (The higher you go in elevation, the lower the air pressure, which means that leavening and evaporation proceed more quickly than at sea level, among other differences.) There weren’t any other bagel bakeries in the state the Gibsons could check in with. “We were the only bagel shop in Wyoming and had no one to go to for advice,” Maggie says. “So Les and I learned on the fly.”
But, “It turns out that high altitude and Jackson water make great bagels,” Maggie says. This was good because business was brisk from the start. “In the nineties Les and I rode the wave of popularity for three commodities—bagels, coffee, and Jackson Hole.” By 2008, the couple was ready for a new adventure though, and Polly Filice, who in 2001 started as a barista at the Pearl Street Bagels location in Wilson (which the Gibsons had opened in 1997), had already told them she was interested in buying the business if they ever wanted to sell. Filice, who has worked in food service since she was 15, partnered with two co-workers, Gould and Brevan Daniel. (Gould started as a barista at the Wilson location around 2003 and Daniel worked in the kitchen at the downtown location.) In 2015 Gould and Filice bought out Daniel. Maggie says, “We could not have been happier about passing the business on to our former employees. They have kept the good vibe alive.” Gould says, “One of the things so special about Pearl Street is that it runs so deep. I know three people who have a pteranodon [the bakery’s logo] tattoo. I love that it’s a place people care enough about to do something like that.” JH