Melissa Haller rattles a wheeled rack across the concrete floor. It holds 15 pans with 24 raw bagels in each. The unbaked dough shines in the fluorescent light. The air in the kitchen is thick with a warm, herby smell, cut with the savory tang of onion and garlic. It’s easy to imagine the aroma in here — just picture yourself standing in a room filled with Everything bagels.

That’s exactly where I am, in the kitchen of Tandem Bagel Co. in Easthampton. It’s 4 a.m. Haller, the baker, got here an hour ago.

Outside it’s still dark. All the better for Haller to zone out and work as briskly as possible. I ask her if there is something meditative about the repetitions of this work shift: arrange dough on pans; bake; repeat. “Definitely,” she says. “At least until you’re five minutes behind.” Clipped to the board on the wall behind her is an Excel printout of the morning’s work order — with hourly quotas. By 8:30 a.m., Haller will be turning out more than 1,000 bagels. She is making 25 varieties this morning. Some are your standard toppings on plain dough: sesame, poppyseed, Parmesan, salt. Other bagels are made with special doughs: Cheddar, whole wheat, pesto, pumpernickel, chocolate.

The kitchen is compact — more than two or three people standing among the racks would feel crowded — and Haller is frequently moving one rack out of the way to pull another though. “It’s like a game of Tetris in here,” she says.

She wheels the rack to one side, then swings open the door to the industrial oven. Hot air pours out with a whoosh. In rolls the rack. The metal door thuds shut, and she presses a timer on the door’s digital clock panel. Red numbers begin the countdown until the next baked batch is ready.

On the other side of a brick wall, employees are starting to arrive. Setting up the front end of the business, which opens at 6 a.m. on weekdays, means transferring bagels to baskets, brewing coffee, and tidying up before customers arrive.

As the sunrises and light begins to glow the faintest dark blue in the restored train depot on Railroad Street. Haller pulls another rack of prepped dough out of the walk-in cooler. She mists the dough-bagels with a spray bottle, then flips the glistening rings, two-by-two, into a bowl filled with sesame seeds, poppies, salt, onion, and garlic. It’s Extreme Makeover: Plain Bagel Edition.

The Everything bagels look awfully appetizing. But Haller never pauses — she’s on a roll, and she’s got to keeping rolling. She works quickly, but smiles. She’s calm. This is what it must mean to be one with Everything.

— Hutner Styles,