A Homewood, Alabama couple is bringing their scratch-made bagel shop to Tuscaloosa and aiming to open the new brick-and-mortar eatery on 15th Street next month.

Ginny and Joe Leavens own and operate Homewood Bagel Company, a labor of love the husband and wife team launched in 2019 after a few years of baking to bring something fresh to their lives as practicing attorneys.

In a Wednesday interview with the Tuscaloosa Thread, Ginny Leavens said what started as an at-home hobby grew over time and before long, the couple was giving fresh bagels as gifts to their loved ones. Soon enough those friends and family members were asking to order bagels in bulk for meetings, Sunday School classes and more.

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Like so many entrepreneurs, those friends and family members told the couple they should turn their bakery into a side hustle and turn their great product into a moneymaker.

"It was a very organic evolution," Ginny Leavens said. "We just kind of did it for fun for a long while and then we got to the point where we had grown but we were doing this out of our house and we decided to turn this into a little business."

The Leavenses got certified with the health department, formed a business and started operating as a Saturday popup at a local cookie shop that was only open Monday through Friday.

When the cookie shop closed permanently, Ginny and Joe Leavens took over the lease at the building and in December 2019, opened Homewood Bagel Company as it is known today, with a full kitchen open six days a week.

After years of success, especially in the curbside pickup and catering sectors necessitated by the pandemic, the couple has decided to expand into Tuscaloosa, which Ginny considers her second home.

"We were looking for places to expand in Birmingham, but Tuscaloosa was always on my mind," said Leavens, who earned two degrees at the University of Alabama and lived here for seven years.

The perfect opportunity came last month, when local restaurateur Brad McDaniel announced he was closing the original Hoo's Q barbeque restaurant at 101 15th Street East after nine years in the space to focus on his family and Hoo's Q and Brew in north Tuscaloosa.

"We just loved the space, it's so similar to our Homewood model with the outdoor space, and the small but not-too-small interior," she said. "We just felt like it all worked out so perfectly to get us to this point."

The Leavens plan to open their "old-school" bagel shop in Tuscaloosa next month, offering customers 18 regular and seasonal bagels and more than a dozen spreads, all fresh-made in-house.

They will also offer bagel sandwiches and drinks featuring Pelham's Non-Fiction Coffee Co. products.

Ginny Leavens said she plans to personally oversee operations in Tuscaloosa, at least until a local staff is trained well enough to meet the brand's exacting standards. They're hiring for the new store now, and interested applicants can apply online.

"We're really nervous, but I saw a need and we've always wanted to be in Tuscaloosa and Brad and Traci [McDaniel] really felt like the right people to take the leap with," Leavens said.

For more on the shop, coverage of its grand opening and more exclusive updates on restaurant and retail development in west Alabama, stay connected to the Tuscaloosa Thread.

UPDATE: The Grand Opening is set for this Friday, October 28th! Go check out Homewood Bagel Co. on 15th Street from 7 a.m. until 2 p.m.

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