South Portland's Scratch bagels on the way to Broadway

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SOUTH PORTLAND — Regular customers will undoubtedly agree: If you want a fresh bagel from Scratch Baking Co. on a weekend morning, get there early and be prepared to wait in line. 

But that may soon change.

Sonja Swanberg, Bob Johnson and Allison Reid, owners of the business, have decided to add another location almost entirely devoted to bagels. 

If all goes according to plan, Swanberg said Wednesday, Scratch will take over a former Getty gas station at 205 Broadway in July. The 900-square-foot space will have seating for about a dozen people, and a bagel and toast bar with homemade jams, butter, nut butters, cream cheese, hummus and other spreads. 

The nearly 12-year-old Willard Square bakery, at 416 Preble St., makes its own bagels, breads and pizza, and offers a revolving selection of sweet and savory pastries, and a variety of fresh sandwiches.

But Scratch bagels are the coveted commodity, sought by fans from near and far. The bagels “have kind of become the thing that has become a thing,” Swanberg said Wednesday morning in the second-floor-apartment-turned-office above the bakery. “… Over the last five to six years, it has really exploded,” 

Each bagel is shaped by hand before being cooked using a boiler that can only handle a dozen bagels at a time. The bakery oven only holds six dozen bagels.

But the bakery’s ever-increasing popularity, which peaked last summer, has surpassed what the space and equipment can “comfortably” accommodate, Swanberg said.

“It became pretty apparent that we needed to do something about our bagel situation,” she said. 

Over the years, Swanberg, Johnson and Reid – all South Portland residents – have been approached more than a dozen times by people and business owners with offers to expand and open new locations in places as far south as Wells, Swanberg said.

But they never had the desire to look beyond South Portland.

“We are very focused and tied to this community,” she said. Scratch has become a “fixture” in the city and, likewise, “the community is an integral part of who we are and what we do.”

It wasn’t until last fall, when the trio learned about the availability of the vacant gas station – about a half a mile away from Willard Square – that they started to realistically consider adding a second location. 

Now in the process of getting permits from the city, Swanberg said they plan to lease the 53-year-old building at the corner of Broadway and Sawyer Street.

“We appreciate the historical funkiness of the building,” which still retains the gas pump awning on the front of the property, Johnson said Wednesday. The awning will stay, but like the facade, it’ll be cleaned up and repainted, he said. 

Overall, with new equipment and the added space, Scratch will be able to increase its production by 25 percent, Swanberg said. 

“It’s a big step to leave the square,” she admitted. “We really just think of it as an extension of what we’re doing.”

Swanberg also promised everything at the Willard Square bakery will remain “exactly the same” – bagels, sandwiches, pastries and bread will still be sold.

The only noticeable difference?

“A shorter bagel line,” she said. 

Alex Acquisto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or aacquisto@theforecaster.net. Follow Alex on Twitter: @AcquistoA

South Portland’s Scratch Baking Co. will expand this summer from Willard Square to the corner of Broadway and Sawyer Street, where the menu will focus on the bakery’s ever-popular bagels.

A former gas station at 205 Broadway in South Portland will be Scratch Baking Co.’s second location.

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South Portland and Scarborough reporter for The Forecaster. Graduate of Western Kentucky University and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Alex can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106.