It’s not difficult to get caught up in the aroma that hits the nose upon setting foot inside of Big Apple Bagels.
Freshly baked bread, sweet cinnamon rolls and a hint of coffee that has just been brewed waft freely through the air of the Dubuque location, no doubt making patrons second-guess what they originally thought they might order.
But if the decadent smells aren’t enough to entice, the friendly face that often can be found behind the counter or mingling with customers likely is.
Judy Faulhaber has owned the shop with her husband Jeff for more than 20 years. The couple took up an offer to purchase business from its prior owner in 2000, just after the birth of the first of their three children, now ages 16, 18 and 21.
Prior to that, Faulhaber, 53, had graduated from Wahlert Catholic High School in 1986, worked for a stint as a nanny in New Jersey, then returned to Dubuque, joining Big Apple Bagels.
In the time Faulhaber has overseen the operation, she has watched the business grow, the customer base increase and the offerings at the location continue to serve as a draw.
“I never wanted to go to college, but I always knew that I wanted to own my own business,” she said. This has turned out to be a very good thing. There are so many things I love about this place. I love the customers and the friendships we have developed with them. The community has been so good to us, especially during COVID. It’s very flattering. We also have great employees. I love coming to work every day.”
While patrons certainly know about the bagels, what they might not be aware of is Faulhaber’s outreach in the area through the shop.
Using Big Apple Bagels’ popular platform, each month Faulhaber selects a charity or organization within the community that not only receives monetary donations made by customers but also an awareness campaign via radio that aims to shed light on the organization’s efforts.
For the past 12 years, it has been Faulhaber’s way of giving back to her hometown, a community she said has given so much to her.
“I’ve just always been the kind of person that wants to help people, and I love Dubuque,” Faulhaber said. “Customers will actually look for the canisters we have setting out next to the registers and will ask which organization we’ve selected for the month. What we’re able to provide isn’t always a lot in money, but the awareness people gain of the great groups making an impact in our community every day I hope helps.”
One of those organizations has been Two By Two Character Development in Dubuque, which has collaborated with Faulhaber for several years.
“Community outreach is Judy’s strength,” said Two By Two founder Kristin Woodward-Vaassen. “She has a big heart and helps several nonprofits through her monthly coin collection and radio ads. Judy also provides sponsorships to support nonprofit’s missions.”
Friend and former employee Mackenzie Jaeger worked for Faulhaber as a high school student. She added that Faulhaber leads by example.
“Judy demonstrates integrity, empowerment, positivity and empathy for others,” Jaeger said. “She is the most selfless person and puts the needs of others and the community first. Judy gives so much back to the community. I am so grateful to have had Judy in my life during my most impressionable years. She has demonstrated that even during the worst of times, you must keep going.”
Other establishments that have been the beneficiary of Faulhaber’s drive to help others have included St. Stephen’s Food Bank, Resources Unite!, St. Mark Youth Enrichment, the American Red Cross (for which Faulhaber has served as a board member) and café ministries through local churches.
“They serve approximately 200 meals every Thursday night,” Faulhaber said. “These are the people who have helped put Dubuque on the map. These are the people that make Dubuque the great place that it is, with so much to offer.”
It’s in character for Faulhaber, who enjoys summertime spent with family when not running Big Apple Bagels, to shift the limelight off of herself and on to the organizations she serves, as she was quick to give credit to those she supports as being the true difference makers.
She manages to find time for it all, even amid running a business, raising a family and supporting her husband in his fight against cancer.
“I’m not a person who likes a lot of attention,” Faulhaber said. “But I’m happy and honored that I’m in a position where I can help bring some awareness to some of the good things happening in our community. It’s fun. And it’s very gratifying.”