I just wanted to take a moment to celebrate a milestone. This is my 400th post. YAY! Ok, now back to our regularly scheduled programming….
Yesterday I told you about the strange coincidence that two people from my past have started successful local businesses selling granola. Jessica, of Jessica’s Natural Foods, and Michele, of Michele’s Granola.
I know Michele from our high school days in Potomac, MD. Michele was in the same class as me, David F. (aka Famous Fat Dave), and Dhani Jones (the pro football player and all-around renaissance man). You may remember Dave and Dhani from the story I shared over a year ago about our adventures in food.
Michele started making granola in 2004. She had spent a few summers on Martha’s Vineyard and loved the fresh baked granola bars at Black Dog Bakery. Those bars inspired her to make her own granola when she moved back home to Maryland.
She tried lots and lots of combinations, learning from the various recipes she found for granola. She quickly learned that the key to making delicious granola is high quality ingredients — and finding a balance between those flavors and textures in the final product.
Michele really enjoyed making her Original Recipe granola and it quickly became her signature dish. She would bake up a big batch, divide it into ziploc bags, and share it with her friends. In December of that year, she ordered special bags and labels and packed it up for holiday gifts.
That winter, she became interested in selling her granola at the local farmers market, but was unable to get space as a vendor, both because there was a long waiting list, but also because she didn’t have a commercial kitchen.
For a time, she gave up on her dream of starting a granola business, but she was still interested in farmer’s markets and the people buying and selling there. She got a job working for another bakery at Maryland’s Takoma Park Farmer’s Market. Some of the customers would ask if this bakery made granola — they didn’t — and Michele began thinking that maybe the universe was trying to tell her something!
After about six months into her job with the bakery, she brought some of her granola to the bakery owners to sample. They loved it, so she made a couple batches and they started selling it together at the market.
As demand for her granola grew, she shared space in a bakery and picked up some local food co-ops as wholesale customers. By early 2008, she found a commercial kitchen for lease in Baltimore and the growth of Michele’s Granola picked up momentum.
According to a story I read last week on Whole Story, the Whole Foods Market blog, Michele’s Granola is now in almost 100 retail stores, including Whole Foods stores in the mid-Atlantic region. She recently moved to a larger commercial kitchen, and secured a loan with Whole Foods Local Producer Loan Program to purchase equipment and build out her space.
Today, Michele’s Granola bakes almost 800 pounds of granola a day. She says that the best business advice she ever got was to do one thing and do it really well. However, she is now producing muesli and granola bars, both only available at two local Maryland Farmer’s Markets.
I contacted Michele a few months ago to tell her I wanted to write about her granola and she sent me a bag of each kind she makes. It was a very good day when the bags of Original, Pumpkin Spice, Cherry Chocolate, Ginger Hemp, and Cinnamon Raisin arrived. They are all delicious in their own way — I honestly couldn’t pick favorites. One thing I love about all of the flavors of Michele’s Granola is that they are really chunky and don’t turn to sawdust like many of the granola’s I’ve had in the past. There are large pieces of nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and chocolate (depending on the flavor) and it’s really fun to see as well as taste the burst of flavors.
I asked Michele what she thinks is the best part of having a food-related business. She says it’s nice coming to work in a bakery every day, knowing that good food makes people happy. She also loves the community of food producers she’s part of in Baltimore. Sounds a bit like Austin, don’t you think?Tags: granola, local, Michele T., Michele's Granola