Long Before the Bagels, Tandem Building Was a Popular Stop


Tandem Bagel Co., the best, and only, place to get a French toast bagel on campus, was not always a delicious café and bakery. The building of the Easthampton location has a longer history than one might think.

In 1854, Samuel Williston established the Hampshire and Hampden Railroad Company with his business partner, Joel Hayden, and purchased the now-extinct route of the Northampton-New Haven Canal, according to Willistonblogs.com. After completing the 24 miles of railroad, they also constructed a small station or shed to go along with it.

The building that stands where Tandem is now dates back to 1871, and was originally used as a railroad station with a waiting room, a baggage room, and an office for the station master.

With the increasing popularity of automobiles and the highway system, the use of the rail system in Easthampton declined, and eventually regular passenger service ended in the late 1950s. Williston capitalized on this opportunity and purchased the former station with the purpose of using it as a maintenance building.

In 1969, a Williston fine arts teacher, Barry Moser, set up a letterpress in the building, teaching students to type and print books, and even welding classes were held in the courtyard. In the years to follow, the art studios forced the Physical Plant out completely.

When the newly transformed Reed Campus Center opened at Williston in 1996, the arts programs moved there from the old station building, leaving it empty. What to do next in that space was unknown, until a painting teacher, Marcia Reed, recognized it as the perfect area for a studio and a place to live, and she began leasing from the school. With her retirement in 2012 after 33 years of teaching, the building was put up for lease again.

According to Tandembagelco.com, on March 29, 2013, Tandem officially opened for business after renovating the former train depot. Tandem Bagel Co. is owned and operated by Chris Zawacki, who graduated from Williston in 1987, and Andrea Zawacki. (It was formerly co-owned by another Williston family: Shannon ’83 and Brian Greenwood). In addition to Easthampton, they have since opened up locations in Northampton, Hadley, Florence, and West Springfield.

Tandem Bagel Co. makes all of their own bagels in-house. Chris Zawacki, co-owner of the company, explains the logistics of the bagel-making process, including a workday that starts when we’re all asleep.

In the bakery, a typical work day for the staff starts “at 1:00 a.m. to have bagels ready for the deliveries to the five cafes and some wholesale business,” Zawacki said. “They bake until about 8:00 a.m., when additional staff start mixing dough for the next day’s production.”

Tandem sells a variety of different flavors, including snickerdoodle, jalapeño, wild cheddar, and so many more. Their most popular bagels are everything, sesame, cinnamon raisin, plain, asiago, and whole grain.

They are also known for their fun assortment of holiday-themed drinks offered for only a limited time. Besides from these specialty drinks, Zawacki says that “the most popular drinks are regular coffee, iced coffee, and lattes.”

Tandem is extremely popular among students and faculty, acting as a great place to study, get a delicious coffee and catch up with a friend, or to grab a quick lunch.

Natalie Stott, a senior boarding student who lives in Emily McFadon Vincent House, says her favorite meal from Tandem is a snickerdoodle bagel with cream cheese and a hot chocolate.

Sarah Markey, senior class president from Northampton, Mass., says that go-to order from Tandem is a snickerdoodle bagel with butter and an iced coffee with cream.

Another Tandem-lover, senior Belén Degener from Southampton, Mass., often orders a plain bagel with cream cheese and a tiramisu latte.