Photo by Bob Williams

Spreading the Dough

Beloved south Eugene bagel shop reopens, new owner says he’s offering living wages and profit sharing

Ever since Maxwell Davis, 29, took over Lox, Stocks and Bagels, customers have been coming in nonstop. In the few weeks the bagel shop has been open, it’s been breaking sales records. 

Lox, Stocks and Bagels re-opened for business on Feb. 2 after being shut down for nearly two months. Business has been booming as customers return to what Davis says is the only boiled bagel shop in town, a form of cooking bagels that is more popular on the East Coast. 

The shop’s closing was a surprise to the employees, Davis says, but he bought the company, rehired most of the previous workers and is offering a living wage, as well as quarterly profit sharing and including their insight on business decisions. 

Lox, Stocks and Bagels’ previous owner’s son died in an April 2021 car crash, and the bagel shop closed down about six months later. Scott Lilly announced on Facebook on Dec. 22 that the store would stay closed through the holiday season. On Jan. 17, Lilly said on Facebook that Davis would take over the business, and it re-opened Feb. 2. 

While Lilly owned the business, Davis had worked there for three and a half years. When the business closed, he says he tried other bagels in town to see if the loss of Lox, Stocks and Bagels would be noticeable. And it was. He brought up the idea of buying the business to a private investor. The investor was too busy, but offered Davis a private loan. 

Davis bought the business’s assets for an undisclosed amount, and he rehired most of the staff. They worked together in reimagining the restaurant space, installing new furniture and deep cleaning the store, he says. 

The business didn’t take much time to settle in before re-opening. The dining room would be filled with construction tools, Davis says, but customers would walk in and wait at the counter, trying to order bagels. “It’s been a madhouse ever since,” he adds. 

With the high demand for bagels, he’s been hiring new employees. Davis says he’s offering his staff a living wage. The starting hourly wage is $13.75, he says, but after training it often goes up to $14 to $14.50, plus tips. 

“While it’s great to raise their wages, it’s a little frightening to do payroll,” he laughs. A wage increase, though, was likely a part of what helped him convince the staff to return and hire new employees, he adds. “But if business keeps up like this, there’s no issue,” he says.  

The restaurant also offers employees a 10 percent profit share, a number that Davis says keeps workers from having to make drastic changes to their income tax filings. At the end of the next financial quarter, he says 10 percent of profit is set aside for workers, which is then distributed to employees based on the hours they worked. 

A profit sharing model is what he says he had in mind when he wanted to take over the business. Before finding his current investor, Davis says he was “laughed out of a few investment meetings” for wanting to have a profit-sharing model. 

Davis decided to have the employees have a say in the operations of the business because he’s new to business ownership, and he wanted workers to have ownership in the store. 

Davis says the return of boiled bagels has been welcome news for the local East Coast transplants. And while Davis is speaking with Eugene Weekly, a regular customer chimes in to talk about the importance of good bagels. 

Ron Wixman says he grew up in a Jewish neighborhood of New York City and that he remembers his mother telling him how an old lady would walk with bagels stacked on a pole, singing a song in Yiddish that, translated into English, was “I’m standing here, buy my bagels. I’m standing here, my nose is runny and my eyes are tearing. It’s cold, please buy my bagels.” 

Wixman brings that story up to say that he’s glad to see Lox, Stocks and Bagels open again because it’s the place where “you can find an honest-to-god real Brooklyn bagel.” 

The surprising nonstop business since reopening leaves Davis wondering if it’s time to move up talks about opening a second location. That’s an idea he says he thought would be explored 18 to 24 months after taking over the business. But if business stays booming, he says opening a second location could come sooner than later, adding that he’d just had a tour at 5th Street Public Market. 

“I thought that was miles away, but I’ve gotten so many requests, and our investor is super game to keep it going,” Davis says. “So there’s a good chance you’ll see us pop up.”

Lox, Stocks and Bagels is at 368 E. 40th Avenue. Hours are 7 am to 2 pm Wednesday through Sunday, closed Monday and Tuesday. Find it on Facebook.