Yep, that's us! Â Just a few miles away you'll find out items being manufactured in a 30,000 square foot, multimillion dollar kitchen.Â Sounds fancy, right?Â Well, it is. And some days I wish it was our very own kitchen, but alas it is not.Â Our Vegan Cowvins, brownies, cakes and cookies are simply part of the 24 hour production day.Â Some folks are surprised to find out that everything isn't made in our little 600 square foot kitchen in Columbia Heights.Â Well, we did when we startedÂ back in 2010 and Roots Market was our only outlet. When Whole Foods approached us a year later, there was no way we could add another store, let alone 39.
As I began looking into sharing a kitchen with the Breadery in Maryland, I stumbled upon this notion of 'co-packers'; having a third party manufacture and distribute your product without having to build out your own facility.Â There are kitchens around the globe dedicated to just that, and make multitudes of product from many different companies.Â The upside; not having to invest millions of dollars into building a warehouse kitchen while also trying to secure enough business to support it.Â The downside; not being hands on in the kitchen producing our recipes and products in a shared kitchen.
I found a local small company who had been in the DC area for ages.Â Clements Pastry Shop is a family run business which started as a retail bakery in Downtown, DC.Â They moved their operation to Hyattsville, MD in 1998 and became a dedicated wholesale facility, delivering daily sweets area wide.Â I went in to see their operation and talked about the opportunities, the options, the ideas I had for Sticky Fingers.Â Part business chat slash vegan 101 lesson and marketing overview of the natural foods industry, we decided to partner in the process rather than a traditional co-packer/producer/owner agreement.
Why?Â Â Having an investment in the product meant adhering to our standards, ingredients, and company mission.Â From cleaning equipment between batches to avoid cross contamination, to building relationships with our vendors and retailers, Sticky Fingers and Clements are working together rather.Â Over the years as a 'boss' and an employee, I learned that this type of relationship is much more enjoyable for everyone involved, especially when trying to run a mission based business. If it was simply about $$ and making cookies, then maybe I'd do things a little differently.Â But having a non-vegan local business (who's owners could barely pronounce the word 'vegan' before I came along) now sourcing ingredients, coming up with new recipes, experimenting and even converting some of their existing recipes into vegan ones is priceless.