THOMASVILLE, Ga. (WTXL) — It started with a dream.
Years ago in a Manhattan restaurant where Anna Carroll Gregory and her now-husband John were working.
"It all started with a funny conversation of us dreaming up a restaurant. How funny would it be if we quit our jobs and moved to Thomasville, where I'm originally from, and opened up our own restaurant," Anna Gregory said.
Anna says it was a selfish reason - when they moved back to the South they couldn't find any fresh bagels.
"People said, I don't know there aren't bagels here and that might be for a reason. We just thought - they haven't had a good one yet," Anna Gregory said.
In 2017, Empire Bagel & Delicatessen was born.
John, from Rockaway Beach, has over 20 years' experience in the restaurant industry.
The former-executive chef got to work; playing around in the kitchen to perfect his bagel recipe.
So what's the secret to making an authentic New York bagel? Contrary to popular belief - it's not the water.
"A new York style bagel is boiled and you need a sweetener in the water that gives it a little color and shine," John Gregory said.
So they hand make the dough - then they roll it out - then the key is that they boil and bake it and that is how you make a New York bagel.
"The boiling gives you the crust around it. A good bagel should have crust on the outside and soft on the inside and some air pockets - a lot of store bought bagels are very dense," John Gregory said.
For the Gregory's - it's always been about manifesting their dream, while giving back.
"We really were passionate about having a mom & pop breakfast and lunch spot. We wanted to be able to offer fresh made in house options and something unique and that is something we felt like we could contribute that wasn't already here," Anna Gregory said.
It hasn't always been easy, but Big Apple bagels seem to have caught on the Peach State.
"It was a slow start with any new business a small business - it's a slow start but we have a really supportive community and it's just been great to see everything get busier and busier," Anna Gregory said.
A unique family-run restaurant experience in Thomasville.
A place that native New Yorker John Gregory now says feels like home.
"It is nice to know who your banker is and who the other business owners are and there is a great community down here who supports each other," John Gregory said.