Family owns bagel shop in Egypt

Jack Stenglein

Many families in Westlake have their own businesses. Some own automotive shops and some own restaurants — the Stringfields own a bagel shop in Egypt.

The family first moved from Texas to Egypt when junior Sofia Stringfield was 4, due to her father’s job with Halliburton, an oil company. Although her father stayed with Halliburton the entire eight years they lived in Cairo, he wanted to start a business of his own there.

“They had all the big chains there, like McDonald’s, Burger King and Starbucks, but they didn’t have any bagel shops,” Sofia said. “My mom loved bagels and really missed them, so my dad decided to start a bagel business.”

The Stringfields first opened their bagel shop three years after moving to Egypt and still own it today, nine years later. The shop is named Jared’s Bagels, after sophomore Jared Stringfield. It sells regular bagels in addition to pizza bagels, bagel sandwiches, bagel omelets and bagel hot dogs. While Sofia’s father used to run the shop, that job has fallen to others since their return to America four years ago.

“In Egypt, the orphanages kick you out once you turn 18 and you have to go get a job and live on your own,” Sofia said. “My dad decided to hire some of the orphans, and one of them just clicked immediately. He knew English really well, my dad mentored him and he runs the shop now as the manager. We also have American friends over there, and they help with it.”

While living in Cairo, Sofia first went to a British school attended mostly by wealthy Egyptians, Americans and Brits. She later transferred to a private American school, where most of her friends were also American. Despite this, she still had many opportunities to experience the unique culture of Egypt.

“It was very polluted and very chaotic, but a neat experience,” Sofia said. “Their driving was crazy — they had traffic lights, but no one followed them. If you go out to a market, next to the fruits and vegetables, you would see skinned cows or pigs just hanging, sometimes wrapped and sometimes not. I even saw a cow being slaughtered. They tied it up and then just killed it, right out on the street.”

Sofia and her family moved back to Texas when she was 12 so that she would be able to attend school in America.

“My private school only had 75 people in my grade, so the bigger schools were a huge change when I moved back here,” Sofia said. “It’s also a lot quieter, more organized and cleaner. The big things I like about America are shopping, the food and being able to wear shorts to my knees or tank tops. Over there [people] would call you names and verbally harass you for doing that.”

Despite the various unsavory characteristics of Egypt, Sofia says she is still glad to have had the opportunity to live there.

“It was a really great experience, and I definitely think I have a more culturally aware perspective,” Sofia said. “We celebrated all of our own traditions and came back almost every summer, but I had Egyptian friends and got to experience their traditions as well.”