Bagels & Bouqs: celebrating the little things

Bouquets+start+as+color+palettes+and+evolve+into+bundles+of+joy.

Photo by Haley Eaglestar Rock (414loral photographer)

Bouquets start as color palettes and evolve into bundles of joy.

Valentine’s Day is about sentimental cards, gorgeous bouquets of flowers, and … bagels?

“It’s really just a one-stop shop for Valentine’s Day,” Mikel McGee, founder and floral designer for 414loral, said. “You have food, you have flowers, you have a card and we’re also throwing in some stickers too.”

For Feb. 14, three local businesses are collaborating to create “Bagels & Bouqs.”

McGee will be supplying the mini “bouq” part of Bagels & Bouqs. Daniela “Ruby” Varela, owner and baker at Ruby’s Bagels, will be adding two plain bagels, two chocolate chip bagels, four ounces of chipotle raspberry jam and eight ounces of plain cream cheese. The card is designed by Milwaukee native Michael Cerda from Cerda Design Co.

“I feel like in today’s society, we’re always looking for convenience. So if you can go to one place and get three things rather than making several different stops, it’s also very helpful,” McGee said.

All three businesses are established in Milwaukee. “I’m from Milwaukee, born and raised,” McGee said.

414loral (pronounced four one floral) is planted on North Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. This historic area of Milwaukee, Bronzeville, is known for its Black entrepreneurs.

“That’s something that’s really important to me,” McGee stated. “That’s one of the reasons I wanted to be there.”

Varela, who was just named as part of the Milwaukee Business Journal’s 2022 40 Under 40, also surrounds herself with a strong history. Her mom and two aunts are all employed at Ruby’s Bagels.

“I know right now my employees, most of them, are family, but they’re also women who have been homemakers for so many years, and I’m like ‘Come on, ladies, we got this,'” Varela said.

McGee draws a lot of inspiration from her family as well. In every monthly subscription, McGee offers a “granola-ism.” These witty one-liners are courtesy of quick quips from her grandma, nicknamed “Granola.”

“My grandma always has the best advice, the best one-liners. She just always knows what to say,” McGee said with a big smile.

“My grandma is a very influential person in my life and I wanted to include her in that way,” McGee added.

An important matriarch in Varela’s family is her mom, Eva Campos. After working shifts at Patrick Cudahy, Campos would pick up bagels from Pick ‘n Save. Her family’s heritage has also contributed to the flavors at Ruby’s Bagels.

“I really love my Guilty Guava, which is a toasted plain bagel and guava jam and plain cream cheese. It reminds me of a guava empanada,” Varela said.

Ruby’s Bagels is currently stationed in Zócalo Food Truck Park, but the space isn’t ideal for Varela’s bagel baking. She’s on the hunt for a brick and mortar store where she can expand her menu.

“I want to incorporate more Mexican drinks, Mexican hot chocolate, different ingredients in the cheeses and bagels and stuff like that,” Varela mentioned.

Outside of their families, both businesswomen rely on the local community.

“414loral is definitely … fueled by community support,” McGee said. “We would not be able to continue what we’re doing without people choosing to buy locally.”

McGee and Varela funnel their profits back into the community. After a Mother’s Day collaboration, McGee donated her weekend tips to the Milwaukee Freedom Fund for a bailout fund for moms.

This year, McGee wants to set up a scholarship for a University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee student to take the same introductory to floral design class that inspired McGee to create 414loral.

“The best part for me has been being able to connect with the community and being able to connect other small businesses through collaborating with events,” McGee said.

A Juneteenth parade last summer inspired another community outreach program at 414loral when McGee passed out roses donated by a local wholesaler.

“A lot of people were really surprised, excited. Some people said that they had never gotten flowers before in their life.” McGee said. “The reality of it is that some people don’t get flowers until their funeral, which is too late.”

This planted the seed for “Flowers 4 All.” Every week during the spring and summer, through their website, anyone is encouraged to nominate a Milwaukee changemaker to receive flowers. This way people can enjoy their flowers while they’re still here.

Enjoying flowers and celebrating the small details while you can is another reason for Bagels & Bouqs.

“Even if you don’t traditionally celebrate Valentine’s Day — for some people, they don’t and that’s okay — it’s not so much about the holiday as much as it’s about the reason of celebrating the small things; celebrating yourself, celebrating with friends,” McGee said. “Bagels & Bouqs is a great way to do that and to support three small businesses.”

Varela echoes that statement.

“It’s not only to give to your boyfriend or husband or wife or girlfriend, but also to your besties, to your girlfriends …Who doesn’t love bagels and flowers?” Varela laughed. “Homemade bagels — fresh, two chocolate ones — and a beautiful bouquet. I think that just makes sense. Or you can treat yourself, just saying. I would!”

This story was written by Randi Haseman. She can be reached at randi.haseman@marquette.edu.