Simple pleasures made from scratch
Seattle Popcorn Company
If you’ve ever sat around with friends cooking up ideas, the story of Uncle Woody’s Original Caramel Corn may encourage you to follow your daydreams.
Nancy and Vini Horiuchi put the mom-and-pop in family business with Seattle Popcorn Company. “We didn’t do this to get rich,” says Nancy, “we were both retired and wanted something to do.” To generate ideas they sat around a kitchen table with friends from Chicago, kin of Uncle Woody. “Yes, there’s a real Uncle Woody,” says Nancy, “he ran a candy shop in the 1950s.” When Uncle Woody retired, his discarded treasures included a copper kettle and a gas ring. The group put the kettle to work and developed an original caramel recipe and method. Nancy and Vini launched Seattle Popcorn Company in 2002, and relocated to South Park in 2005. “Several businesses came to South Park, and we moved with them and grew,” recalls Nancy, “as we learned to produce in volume, we adapted our recipe.” With a laugh she adds, “Gas was tough, it gets pretty hot to work with.” Today two modern electric kettles produce 20 pounds of Seattle Popcorn snacks per batch. But this is only half the story.
The Horiuchis take the spirit of family business straight to heart. Their first hire was Woody’s great-nephew Emmett who came to Washington for college. He needed a job, and the Horiuchis needed a hand. Emmett started making popcorn, passed the word to his friends, and the rest was history. “We’ve never had to hire a stranger,” says Nancy proudly. She and Vini are more than employers for their production staff. “We bought a house that they rent-to-own. They have to learn to take care of it, and they care more because they’re part-owners.” The Horiuchis help staff members develop practical life skills. “We encourage them to actively participate in community and neighborhood building,” says Nancy. “Our reason for being is to keep the kids employed.”
Schedule a tour of their South Park facility and meet the smiling staff for yourself. They’ll remind you to seek out the simple pleasures in life… like caramel corn shared with a friend.
Here is a short, interesting article from Seattle Metropolitan Magazine (March 2008) about our local vintners at OS Wines. Be sure to check them out and support our local businesses!
Unexpected Booze Trend of the Month
The Vintners of South Park
Written by Jim Gullo
WE COULDN’T FIND a warehouse on Vashon Island, because of the dot-com boom,” says Rob Sullivan of OS Winery, explaining why his winery is headquartered in the Seattle neighborhood of South Park, the dingy industrial pocket of South Seattle that is more Newark than Nuits Saint Georges. Amazingly, OS Wines, which opened two years ago, was the second winery to set up shop there. The first: Nota Bene Cellars, started by Boeing systems analyst Tim Narby. They were soon joined by Cadence, another Boeing baby run by Benjamin Smith, who used to work in flight control systems. Last year the collective became South Seattle Artisan Wineries, when a fourth, Georgetown-based Fall Line, joined the club. All buy high-quality grapes from Eastern Washington vineyards and produce luscious, Bordeaux-style blends of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, malbec, and petit verdot that garner high marks from the wine press. Which is why Sullivan, a retired banker, now spends his time selling wine to distributors and restaurants, and why Seattle’s southerly industrial hood is slowly making its way onto the oenophile map of America.
Listen to KIRO Radio’s interview with South Park’s OS Winery
For Seattle’s Gourmet Mixes, cocktails are a recipe for growth.
(this article was originally printed in the Puget Sound Business Journal Blog)
To say Demitri Pallis’ spicy cocktail mixes are doing well nationally is to put it mildly. His company, Seattle-based Gourmet Mixes Inc., increased its total sales in 2012 by 44 percent, reaching close to $2.5 million.
That followed two years of double-digit growth, and more is in the forecast after some recent investments.
Gourmet Mixes, which made its reputation with Demitri’s Bloody Mary Seasonings, has added two kinds of margarita mix to its product line, and bought a $2.8 million building in South Park, two-thirds of which it is renting out while using the remaining space for increased storage and offices.
Given the numbers, you might think the company is big. Hardly.
“There are four of us,” Pallis said. “But we have plans to hire two new sales people.”
Pallis was a bartender at The New Orleans restaurant and jazz club in Pioneer Square when he started developing a bloody mary mix that would make it easy to quickly and consistently produce a good cocktail. In 1989, he formed Gourmet Mixes and started selling locally.
For most of the next two decades, he gained mostly local and regional restaurant chains, bars and other retailers as customers, added online sales and expanded his product line. The company now sells four kinds of bloody mary seasonings, two kinds of “salt rimmers” for topping off the cocktails, and pepperoni straws, which are exactly what the name suggests.
Midway through 2011, Pallis began to market nationally. Gourmet Mixes now has products in restaurants in all 50 states, he said, and just signed with a broker to start selling in Canada.
“I’ve stepped over the threshold,” he said about going national.
Gourmet Mixes can thrive with a small staff because it contracts with a partner company in Kent that sources the ingredients, handles the production and delivers the finished product to South Park. That frees Pallis and his employees to concentrate on sales and customer service.
Pallis does much of his marketing at food industry trade shows and conferences. He unveiled his new margarita mixes at a recent show in San Francisco and got good reaction in taste tests plus some advance orders from retailers and distributors.
“That put us in a hurry-up mode,” he said.
Like the bloody mary seasonings, the margarita mixes – one classic and one low-calorie — use only fresh, natural ingredients and are bottled hot, in glass, something like canning at home. Add one part tequila to three parts mix and you have a quick margarita.
Although he doesn’t know what share his company might have of the national market, Pallis said he always thought he had a potential hit on his hands.
“I knew right away from the application of it at my bar. It (his mix) makes it possible to produce a house fresh, scratch-style bloody mary no matter how slammed you are,” he said. “Being able to do it quickly was a deal-closer.”
Pallis has more products in mind, including at least two kinds of margarita salt rimmers, and possibly branching out into salad dressings, sauces and marinades. He said the company’s name was intentionally broad by design from the beginning, leaving open the possibility of going beyond cocktails.
“We want to do more to expand the consumer brand,” he said. “If we can keep the quality high at a good price, we think we’re going to have a lot of fun.”
Article written by Glenn Drosendahl.