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 65 of 139

a journalism major. What he did have was the kind of brain that's always brimming with ideas, moving forward with a concept until he hit a wall or someone pointed out how it wouldn't work. "No one could convince me cold brew coffee wasn't a good idea," he says, noting it was rarely stocked in a retail setting back then. "I realized Americans were on the lazy and impatient side and didn't want to make it themselves. No one understood it, and it was a turn-off to wait 12 hours for your own cold brew at home." Laird enlisted his friends, Dave Sands and Kyle Buckley, to help him make batches of the coffee concentrate in his Brooklyn kitchen, coming up with a New Orleans-style blend fortified with chicory. None of them were schooled in the coffee business, but they each had their own particular talents. "It didn't take me long after conceiving the idea to realize my strengths and weaknesses and want to find partners to fill in the things I was missing," Laird says. Product development and a keen sense of design on packaging—from his magazine world experi- ence—were his primary strengths. Dave Sands, he says, was an "insanely good salesman" and Kyle Buckley's background was in finance and economics, so he was able to figure out the books and distribution side. T he elevator bank at Condé Nast's former headquarters in Times Square is not the most likely place for the birth of a specialty coffee business, but that's where Grady Laird began hawking bottles of cold brew to his co-workers and friends. Laird, 38, was a freelance editor and production manager for the mass media company, working at Details and Men's Vogue before they folded. He was able to survive a number of layoffs, helping put together issues of Harper's Bazaar and GQ, among other print magazines. Still, he recognized his job was a dying career and cast around for something else to do. "I felt I was at the mercy of these publishers and when it came down to it, I was pretty expendable," he says. "The only way to not be at the mercy of others was to take matters into my own hands." He worked nights at a taco truck, learning the business, then became intent on starting a döner kebab truck. This was in 2009, when the economy was foundering. He and his wife, Amy Keller Laird, the editor-in-chief of Women's Health magazine, also had the responsibility of a new son. "It was not the best time to start a restaurant without a tremen- dous amount of experience," he says. "So I went back to freelancing and always had one foot out the door." A 2010 article in GQ, a magazine he was working for at the time, sparked his interest. The subject was making cold brew iced coffee from scratch. Brew It Yourself Laird had long been a fan of iced coffee and felt he spent too much money on it at coffee shops. "The first time I made cold brew coffee at home I was blown away by how delicious it was and how much less expensive it was," he says. The method is both simple and time-consuming, requiring significant planning ahead. Coffee grounds are steeped in cold water and left at room temperature in a steel pot or French press for at least 12 hours. After the grounds are strained out, a dark, strong, low-acid concentrate emerges, without the bitterness that comes from brewing beans at high temperatures. Once it's made, it stays fresh for up to a month in the refrigerator. Too potent to drink straight, cold brew can be diluted with water, milk, soy milk, and so on. Laird appreciated the difference between hot-brewed cof- fee that was cooled and poured over ice and his own slow-made, smoother concentrate. He became a cold brew coffee evangelist. To spread the word, he tried to get friends and family on board, buying them French presses and emailing them recipes. For one reason or another, they couldn't be bothered. An entrepreneurial idea started to percolate, despite having no background in the beverage industry. Laird had landed in New York City after college at the University of Missouri where he'd been — 2009 Grady Laird learns the food business by working at a taco truck at night, with the intention of starting a döner kebab truck. — 2010 Interest in cold brew coffee is sparked after reading an article about making it from scratch in GQ. — 2011 Began hustling bottles of cold brew at Condé Nast in April and selling in its first store, The Brooklyn Kitchen, in June. Quit his job at GQ in August to work on Grady's Cold Brew full-time. — 2012 Started selling at Whole Foods in Manhattan. — 2013 Partners began taking a salary. — 2017 Grady's Cold Brew moves into its new 15,000- square-foot brewery in the Bronx. HIGHLIGHTS WINTER 2018 63

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