Meshuggah Bagels 'built a bakery without a recipe.' Now it's expanding beyond Kansas City
Janna and Pete Linde opened Meshuggah Bagels’ first retail location on 39th Street in March 2016, and it was an instant hit. Now they're pursuing a location in Lawrence.
Pete Linde tested 72 bagel recipes before hitting perfection with number 73, said Janna Linde. She knows because she tried every single test bagel.
“Pete worked on that recipe for about a year. He had a notebook and took notes on every little tweak and modification he made. I’d see the big hand mixer come out late at night because we were still working full-time corporate jobs, and I stopped eating dessert after dinner because I knew I was getting a bagel,” Janna recalled, laughing.
“We were building our bakery while I was still trying out different recipes,” added Pete, who co-owns and operates Meshuggah Bagels with his wife, Janna. “So basically, we built a bakery without a recipe.”
Janna and Pete opened Meshuggah Bagels’ first retail location on 39th St. in March 2016. Meshuggah (which is Yiddish for “crazy” as in “crazy good bagels”) Bagels was an instant hit, Janna said.
“We had a line down the street as far as we could see,” she said. “We thought it was opening day luck, but it never stopped. We realized we hit a niche; we were doing something right.”
As a New Jersey native, Pete grew up around a vibrant bagel culture. Before Meshuggah Bagels, Kansas City did not have a spot to get a “real bagel,” he said.
“There’s a fairly elaborate process to baking a real bagel,” Pete explained. “You form your dough, let it rise overnight, boil it before you bake it. Once you take it out of the boil, you dip it in the toppings and put it on a stick that’s covered in burlap cloth. Put it topping side down on the sticks and put them in the oven. Wait until the dough is no longer sticky to the touch and then flip them over onto baking stones to finish. … There were corporate bagel places in town, but not any legitimate bagel spots that tasted like what you’d find in New York.”
With an overwhelmingly positive response from the local community, Pete and Janna went on to open other Meshuggah Bagel locations in Overland Park, the Power & Light District and Liberty, Missouri.
Because of slower traffic at their Liberty location, the couple ultimately decided to not renew their lease. They closed the shop in 2021.
Return to Liberty
Two years after they closed Meshuggah Bagels in Liberty, Pete and Janna are prepping for a new and improved location in Kansas City’s Northland, they shared with excitement.
“There’s a really nice sense of community in Liberty; the new shop is even walking distance from our house,” Janna said, noting that the bagel shop is set to open in the Valley View Shoppes, a new center at the northeast corner of Missouri I-52 and Booth Avenue.
Meshuggah Bagels’ Liberty location had a strong following of customers, Pete said, but they’d only consistently see their regulars on the weekend.
“The problem was really the location we chose,” Pete said. “The parking was bad, and it was not convenient for a grab-and-go place. Our feedback from customers who couldn’t come in during the weekday was that they couldn’t commit 15-to-20 minutes to park and wait in line for their bagel before work.”
As a solution to their customers’ frustrations, Meshuggah Bagels’ Liberty shop is strategically located off I-52 with a drive thru.
“This is our fourth store we’ve built from scratch,” Pete noted. “It’s our first time having a drive thru, so that’s been a learning experience. We’re not afraid to go to experts and ask seemingly stupid questions. A lot of our journey has been figuring it out as we go.”
“We could write ‘Entrepreneurship for Dummies’ with this bagel shop,” Janna added.
“It sums up to one sentence: make the best decision possible with the situation you have in front of you,” Pete said.
With possible construction delays, the couple is hesitant to set an official opening date for Meshuggah Bagels’ Liberty shop, they said.
“On every Facebook, Instagram post, we get people asking us when we’re going to open up in Liberty,” Janna said. “We have customers in the Northland who will come (to our Power & Light shop) to get their bagels, so they are excited to have a location closer to them. We’re also really excited to be back to four locations.”
Expanding with intention
Pete and Janna have been asked about locations outside of the Kansas City metro, but they both agreed that they prioritize keeping their products consistent and of a high quality.
“Baking really is an art,” Janna said. “We could all have the exact same recipe but the end result would be different. We get people telling us we should franchise, but we will never do that because we’d lose complete control over quality.”
The couple does have early plans to expand to Lawrence, Kansas, they said, noting that their head baker at Meshuggah Bagels’ Overland Park location would lead that shop.
“You’re always thinking about, how far out of your nucleus do you really go because then you’re losing control and oversight,” Pete said. “We decided that if we were ever going to expand, our head baker Jeff and his wife Charlotte were the people we would most trust doing it.”
“Jeff has been with us before anyone else,” Janna shared. “He’s one of the best humans I’ve ever met and has such a passion for baking. He’s actually based in Lawrence, so this would put him a lot closer to home.”
It likely wouldn’t surprise customers that Meshuggah Bagels’ bakes each bagel fresh every day, Janna said, but they might be shocked to learn the shop’s seafood is also fresh — never frozen.
“We’re very proud of the seafood that we serve,” Janna said. “There’s a little fish house out of Brooklyn, New York, that we call. The day that we call them, they cut it and pack it fresh. It ships through LaGuardia, and then we pick it up at the airport here in Kansas City.
“We have no distributor here [in Kansas City],” she continued. “We’re landlocked here so we don’t get fresh seafood, so I think that is one of our biggest secret weapons —our fresh seafood. It’s delicious.”
For those who keep kosher, Meshuggah Bagels’ commercial kitchen in Pleasant Valley, Missouri, is kosher certified, as well as its 39th Street and Overland Park locations. Power & Light and Liberty are not kosher certified.
“We really respect those that keep a kosher household and want to make sure that we have options for them,” Janna said.
After owning and operating Meshuggah Bagels for more than seven years, Pete and Janna still eat a bagel every day, the couple shared.
“You think we’d be tired of bagels by now,” Janna said, smiling.