Specialty Food Magazine


Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

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Page 133 of 203

With no spare cash to cover the cost of a hotel, Lombard slept in a tent at the edge of a cow pasture near the fair. He had no employees to help staff the booth, which was open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m, so his mother helped out one day while he took a lunch break. "When I came back, she mentioned that a woman from Stonewall Kitchen came by who loved the tea," he says. "It turned out the woman was a buyer who said she would be calling me next week." Lombard sent sample cases to the specialty supplier. And, then, silence. Months passed without a word. Worrying that noth- ing was going to come of his business venture and strapped for cash, Lombard took a job working the third shift at L.L.Bean in Freeport over the holidays. But then, in what he says felt to him like a Christmas miracle, he received an email order out of the blue. "There was no fanfare or any sort of congratulations. It simply said that Stonewall Kitchen wanted a pallet, which was five batches of the product," he recounts. "I couldn't believe it. My first costumer was the epitome of the specialty food world." Learning from Early Mistakes On April 1, 2014, Lombard found himself walking down a rainy street in Portland, Maine. Passing a Stonewall Kitchen store, he saw a citrus theme in the window display, showcasing bottles of his Finest Kind Tea Concentrate, which had bright yellow lemons on the label. "I got instant goosebumps," he says. "My friend took pictures of me pointing proudly at the bottles." He made the concoction for his own personal consumption, but when friends stopped by and tasted Lombard's creation, their feedback was unanimous: "You should bottle this stuff." For the rest of that summer of 2012, Lombard began mixing an array of sparkling tea sangrias, using his favorite f lavors, such as ginger, lime, and lemon. At backyard parties, the compliments kept rolling in, and a light bulb went on. Lombard decided to bottle and sell his drink mixers to give consumers a sulfite-free alternative for mixers and modifiers. Fast First Steps Lombard considered basing his business in Brooklyn, where a cock- tail renaissance was afoot. "I was working in nonprofit, rescuing dogs, but wherever I went, it seemed people were incubating ideas for great new mixers and drinks," he explains. He quickly realized, however, that local competition and costs made the project too prohibitive. Lombard grew up in Boston, but his brother, mother, and grandmother had all moved to Portland, Maine. Whenever he visited, he was impressed by the state's "wonderful and growing community of local food producers who were finding affordable ways to turn their ideas into a reality," he recalls. That fall, on one such trip, Lombard met with a co-packer that had an 80-gal- lon kettle it used to make a kombucha tea product. Though they ultimately didn't partner, the business offered Lombard use of its kettle and bottles. Jumping on the opportunity, Lombard started his product line with two varieties: an Arnold Palmer–style mix of tea and citrus and, in keeping with the state tradition, a Maine wild blueberry mix. Small Start, Big Break Now that he had a product and a package, Lombard needed to get it into the hands of the public. He started small—very small—by sign- ing up for a table at a local farmers market in August 2013. When the day arrived, Lombard picked up proofs of his labels from the printer and stuck them on the bottles while sitting in his car. That afternoon, 12 people stopped at his table to sample his drinks. "I sold two bottles, which may not sound like much," he acknowledges, "but I was thrilled that anyone was drinking what I'd created and telling me it tasted great." A fellow vendor suggested Lombard sign up for the 2013 Fryeburg Fair, an eight-day agricultural extravaganza that takes place in Maine every autumn. At that point, Lombard decided to give up his apartment in Brooklyn and move in with his family to pursue his business fulltime. "I loaded up my Honda with every- thing I owned and got rid of the stuff that wouldn't fit," he recalls. "Friends were saying to me, 'What are you doing starting a bever- age company? You have no experience.' But I didn't care, because I wanted to make this thing work." JAY LOMBARD Age: 40 Years in specialty food: 2 Favorite food: Street tacos Least favorite food: Anything with sulfites Last thing I ate and loved: Korean BBQ in Brooklyn, New York If I weren't in the food business I'd be: Rescuing dogs, which I used to do. One piece of advice I'd give to a new food business: Ask for help! That means seeking advice from mentors and people in the industry who can share their knowledge with you and help you figure things out. SUMMER 2015 131

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