A retired lawyer. Married couples. Former contractors and recreational bakers.
These are the variety of local entrepreneurs that the Stony Brook University Business Incubator has given the equipment and the resources to launch 50 artisanal food start-up businesses in a Calverton food production facility.
“There’s no way we would have been able to afford this as a start-up,” said Cori Kopke, who runs local pickle company Backyard Brine with her husband, Randy.
Cori and Randy Kopke have always enjoyed pickling as “a mutual fun hobby,” Cori says, but it wasn’t until they learned about the Stony Brook Business Incubator that they were able to turn their passion into a viable business.
The incubator provides four food production areas to local entrepreneurs for $25 an hour. That includes a gluten-free space, two hot process lines and a baking area. It also offers its fledgling business owners guidance with navigating the sometimes very complicated regulations issued by New York Department of Agriculture and Markets.
And yesterday, the incubator held its first “Food Expo,” where representatives from major food distributors like Whole Foods and Wild By Nature met with 30 of the incubator’s food entrepreneurs to talk about getting products from the East End on their shelves.
“We’re giving them an opportunity to start relationships with these buyers that they may not have been able to arrange individually,” said Monique Gablenz, director of the Stony Brook Business Incubator.
The Kopkes echoed this statement. “We’ve been trying to get in touch with Wild By Nature since last fall, via email and phone calls,” said Randy Kopke. “Now we can talk to someone, not just through email – and they can maybe taste the pickles and go back with a couple jars.”
But the beauty of living on the North Fork is that locals have access to these fresh, delicious products at farmer’s markets, delis and farmstands right down the road. Here are some incubator businesses with up-and-coming food products that are already available on the East End.
Linda’s Baking Company (website)
Linda Carey’s baked goods have snagged several years’ worth of first place and best-in-show awards from the Riverhead Country Fair, but it wasn’t until she heard about the incubator that she began to consider baking professionally.
“For years, people would say to me, ‘You should be doing this for a living,'” she said. “We used to drive by the incubator all the time – we didn’t know what it was – and then we bumped into someone who connected us with Monique, and next thing we knew, we were up and running.”
So Carey and her husband, Emmett, launched Linda’s Baking Company in the kitchens of the Stony Brook Business Incubator in July 2013.
“The incubator has been amazing for people like us,” Linda said. “They got us up and running, they put us on the path and told us exactly what we needed to do and, of course, they provided us with all the equipment we needed.”
“The beauty of it is that they’re giving entrepreneurs an opportunity to start a business with low cost,” Emmett added.
As the couple began to offer its products to the public, it quickly became clear which of Linda’s baked goods was the crowd favorite.
“Do you like s’mores?” Emmett asked, holding up a cream filled cookie sandwich.
Linda’s “s’more’s whoopie pies” are the first thing to sell out at farmer’s markets, delis and farmstands. “We showed up at the Riverhead Farmer’s Market one Saturday, and it was pouring rain, it was freezing, it was the first week in March,” she said. “And I just thought – Oh, no. We’re not going to do well today at all. But we were sold out by two o’clock.”
They’ve started producing the whoopie pies in seasonal flavors, including red velvet, pumpkin spice – “That one was very, very popular,” Emmett said – and gingerbread.
“We’ve got a couple of our stores yelling at me that they need more product,” he said. “They’re just clamoring for it.”
Linda says it was the Riverhead Country Fair’s repeated recognition of her work that really gave her the motivation to bake professionally. “It was so rewarding, to be recognized for all your hard work,” she said. “It validates you.”
“I also validate it by eating everything she makes,” Emmett added, grinning.
Where to buy locally: Duffy’s Deli, Jamesport | Wading River Deli, Wading River | Village Beverage, Wading River | Fork and Anchor, East Marion | Fink’s Country Farm Stand, Wading River | Riverhead Farmer’s Market, Riverhead
Pride Enjoy’s ‘Radical Rainbow Cookies’ (website)
As gluten-free, vegan and other specialty diets become increasingly popular, consumers are looking for healthy, wholesome alternatives to their favorite treats.
Enter Shoreham-Wading River graduate Janel Ordemann, a local baker and food lover who successfully completed a Kickstarter campaign to launch her very own alternative baking company.
“I started with rainbow cookies because they’re a little different from the other stuff on the market,” Ordemann said at the Expo yesterday. “People get excited about them. The colors attract you.”
Her vegan, all-natural cookies contain no chemical preservatives, and their bright colors are derived from vegetable dyes rather than “chemical” food coloring. They are also allergen-free, containing no gluten, peanuts or tree nuts – making rainbow cookies, which are usually made from almonds, accessible to those with allergies.
“I realized that people with allergies couldn’t enjoy amazing rainbow cookies,” she said. “So I decided to change that.”
Her Kickstarter campaign, which finished last October, exceeded its goal of $6,200, giving her the resources to purchase bulk ingredients and packaging. “It was a great boost,” she said, “and then you feel like you have that community of people behind you.”
She then got set up with the Stony Brook Business Incubator a few months ago, allowing her to produce the cookies on a much larger scale. “It’s been excellent,” she said. “It’s a great resource if you have questions about anything at all. And events like this,” she added, referring to the Expo, “It’s huge to get in front of buyers and press and get the product out there.”
Where to buy locally: North Fork Chocolate, Aquebogue | Riverhead Winter & Summer Farmer’s Market, Riverhead | Green Earth Natural Foods Market, Riverhead
Backyard Brine (website)
For years, Randy and Cori Kopke have been pickling leftover vegetables from their backyard garden and giving them out to friends. But it wasn’t until a family wedding in 2013, where the wife-and-husband duo provided pickles as wedding favors, that they realized they might be onto something big.
“That really launched the company,” Randy said.
They created just two flavors at the time – “Dill Death Do Us Part,” and “We Go Together Like Bread And Butter.”
“People loved them,” Cori said. “People were crazy about them. We were like, maybe we’re onto something. We should check this out.”
After the couple got in touch with the Stony Brook Business Incubator, they began producing their pickles on a much larger scale, allowing them to expand to five different flavors and more than 60 different retail locations, including six or seven IGAs.
“[The incubator] has given us a state-of-the-art facility,” Cori said. “To be able to have this kind of equipment and stuff – it’s amazing. When we were doing this as a hobby, we were literally only doing eight jars at a time.”
“Now we can sink 120 jars at a time in 10 minutes, for a couple hours straight,” Randy said. “It’s been huge for us.”
They added that the incubator has given them access to a community of other start-up food entrepreneurs who also produce in the Incubator’s four food processing facilities.
“The friends we’ve built here are priceless,” Cori said. “We all help each other out. Finding labels, finding jars – the fellow vendors here have been a huge benefit.”
Where to buy locally: Riverhead Winter Farmer’s Market, Riverhead | The North Fork Table Artisan Market, Southold | Browder’s Birds, Mattituck | Miloski’s Poultry Farm, Calverton | Windy Acres Farm Store, Calverton | Sound Shore Farms and Market, Jamesport | Bay View Farm Market, Aquebogue | Lombardi’s Love Lane Market, Mattituck | Jamesport Country Store, Jamesport | IGA Southold, Southold | Fork and Anchor, East Marion | Jamesport Vineyards, Jamesport | North Fork Food Truck, Southold | Schmidt’s Market, Shelter Island | North Fork Chocolate, Aquebogue | North Fork Oyster Company, Greenport | Village Beverage, Wading River
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