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.

Issue link: https://specialtyfoodmagazine.epubxp.com/i/912382

Contents of this Issue


Page 66 of 139

producer profile Julie Besonen writes for The New York Times and is a restaurant columnist for nycgo.com GRADY LAIRD Age: 38 Years in specialty food: 6 Favorite food: Döner kebab Least favorite food: Raw onions (ironically a popular topping on my favorite food) Last thing I ate and loved: Gooseneck barnacles. Had these while I was visiting a friend in Ecuador last spring (same place that Anthony Bourdain went on "Parts Unknown"). They were crazy to eat, but a lot of fun and quite tasty. If I weren't in the food business I'd be: Doing who knows. Chances are it wouldn't be in the technology sector and I wouldn't have any experience doing it. One piece of advice I'd give to a new food business: Embrace difficulty. I love finding out that something I want (usually involving packaging) doesn't exist yet. That just means you get to plant the flag once you figure it out. Setting Up Shop Laird began hustling bottles of cold brew at Condé Nast. He'd lug 16 bottles on his daily subway commute and do cash transactions in the elevator bank or lobby space on each magazine floor, from Vogue to Wired. People got hooked, calling him on the phone for more, until he became something of a milkman delivery service, picking up the empties for refilling. "People weren't pitying me for my little business, they were liking it as much as I did," he says. "They gave me self-confidence and the encouragement to do it as an official business." Over the period of a year, he was able to decrease his freelance magazine work from full-time to three weeks a month to two weeks to one week to stopping altogether. He was further convinced he was on the right track when he attended a pre-school parents' orientation in Brooklyn in the sum- mer of 2011. "It was a morning function and 90 degrees out and this auditorium had a breakfast spread and two jugs of steaming hot coffee, and no one wanted anything to do with it," he recalls. All of the people at the event seemed to be gripping clear cups of thirst- quenching iced coffee they'd purchased from various shops in the neighborhood when they could have had hot coffee for free. For Laird, it was a revelation, and his mind raced with other possibilities. Hot coffee is a hospitality beverage provided at banks, car dealerships, and offices, but what if they could be persuaded to switch to cold brew iced coffee in hot weather? He could also see it being sold in summer months at ballparks, amusement parks, and movie theaters. Grady's Cold Brew got a big boost in 2011 when GQ published a story, "The Shameless (But Totally Justified) Plug: Grady's Cold Brew." Praise included how office fridges at Condé Nast were stacked top to bottom with bottles of it and how its mellowness made it "the kind of drink that your co-workers will steal without shame." Business picked up to the point where Laird, Sands, and Buckley got proper licenses and permits and moved operations to a 600-square-foot windowless basement under Brooklyn's Williamsburg Bridge. The three men brewed, bottled, and deliv- ered the coffee themselves. Within six months they had outgrown the tiny space. Through Craigslist, they found a 6,000-square-foot space in nearby Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and amped up production. Grady's began to appear in a few local grocery stores, sold in 16- and 32-ounce bottles. The trio gained more exposure by selling iced coffee by the cup at Smorgasburg, a popular, open-air food market in Brooklyn. For a time, none of the partners were taking home a salary. Laird said his wife was instrumental in her support, both financially and as a cheerleader. Today they have two boys, 8 and 4 years old, and have moved to Westchester County where they're closer to their new, stainless steel tank-filled, 15,000-square-foot coffee brewery in the Bronx. Grady's Cold Brew brand is sold at many Whole Foods stores, Fairway, Wegman's, and through Fresh Direct, Amazon, and their own website. Available interpretations range from ready-to-drink 8-ounce bottles called Lil' Easy to a brew-it-yourself Bean Bag Cold Brew Kit, introduced in 2014, before Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks jumped on the bandwagon. They work with the venerable Porto Rico Importing Co. in New York City for the coffee beans and maintain a direct trade sourcing standard. Laird's mind is so active, and perhaps wired on strong coffee, that he can't stop thinking of new business ideas. The problem is, he doesn't have time to pursue any of them right now. Instead, he selectively gives them away to other entrepreneurs, no strings attached, believing it's good karma. "Nothing bothers me more than a good idea dying in my head," he says. "People weren't pitying me for my little business, they were liking it as much as I did. They gave me self-confidence and the encouragement to do it as an official business." 64 ❘ SPECIALTY FOOD MAGAZINE specialtyfood.com

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Specialty Food Magazine - WINTER 2018