Bundy's Bagels had been open for eight months, and things weren't going so well.

Joel Bundy makes better bagels than anybody, but word hadn't yet gotten out, and times were lean. "I really buried myself in debt—I think I had like $20,000 just in credit card debt," Bundy says. "I was paying my bills with credit cards, it was bad."

It got so bad, in fact, that he was turned away while buying supplies for his cart at the Winco on Northeast 102nd Avenue. "My card got rejected, and I'm like, 'What am I gonna do?," he says.

That's when a stranger stepped in and took care of his entire bill.

"I'm like, 'Thank you! And he's like, 'Just pay it forward."

(Henry Cromett)
(Henry Cromett)

As Bundy's cart has grown successful—he routinely sells out in a matter of hours on weekends—he's done just that, and given all his customers a chance to do the same via a Pay-It-Forward bagel program. Customers who stop in for those incredible salt bagels can also get a certificate for a bagel with schmear, which many customers take to give to the homeless people who congregate on Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard. There's even a tackboard wall where you can leave the passes for somebody to claim on the side of his cart.

"They go fast," Bundy says. "For a while, they were all kinda stuck up there, but then word got out, and now they're popular."