You could alarm it Whole Foods’ adaptation of “American Idol” or “The Voice.”
When the amoebic grocer affairs to accessible a store, it sometimes conducts an audition: Local vendors, some little added than hobbyists, angle things they accomplish or broil with the aspiration of one day bartering an ever-expanding cardinal of Whole Foods’ stores. Aloof accepting a artefact best for one Whole Foods abundance is a coveted endorsement.
Among the talents who emerged from about 70 entrepreneurs arrive to audience for the Whole Foods abundance planned for Englewood is Rachel Bernier-Green, who bakes busy amoroso accolade in a bartering kitchen amplitude she rents on Leavitt Street, aloof south of Grand, in Chicago.
“To be on the shelves of Whole Foods, which is my claimed admired grocery store, would be awesome,” said Bernier-Green, 27. Her business, Laine’s Broil Shop, which ceremoniousness a ancestors name, started as a amusement in 2012 and has been affairs accolade online.
While the Englewood abundance isn’t slated to accessible until 2016, Whole Foods advisers were wowed by her accolade and seemed acquisitive to accomplish an actual deal.
“We could buy your artefact afore Englewood,” Robert Whittaker, the grocer’s Midwest bakery coordinator, told Bernier-Green during an all-day affair Jan. 23 for abeyant suppliers at Kennedy King College at Halsted and 63rd streets. The grocer accustomed Tribune reporters to sit in on the pitches. Whittaker, who said he envisioned Bernier-Green’s accolade featured at an all-embracing cookie base in one store, asked her to accelerate aggregate cookie appraisement information.
A anniversary afterwards the able affair with Whole Foods, Bernier-Green said she still feels like she is in “dreamland.”
“I don’t anticipate it has sunk in fully,” she said as she opened 1-pound blocks of adulate and able to mix sugar, Dutch amber powder, alkali and espresso crumb for thumbprint-cookie capacity headed for a 30-quart mixer. Her sister, Lizzy, is allowance her broil and asks her earlier sister if her thumbprints canyon muster.
Bernier-Green hopes that accepting her bottom in the aperture at one Whole Foods abundance leads to added business with the merchant.
Almost a anniversary afterwards her Whole Foods meeting, while the aroma of her Mexican bells accolade fills the aggregate kitchen, Bernier-Green said she affairs to buy her own applicant freezer and acknowledgment to put in the aggregate kitchen to adapt for bartering artefact to Whole Foods.
Bernier-Green, who additionally dreams of accepting her own retail abundance someday, said she will altercate abeyant costs options for the appliances, prices of which alpha at about $5,000, with the Greater Englewood Community Development Corp., which aims to activation bread-and-er development in the poor neighborhood.
Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune
Rachel Bernier-Green, buyer of Laine’s Broil Shop, prepares accolade in her busy amplitude at Kitchen Chicago. She afresh pitched her artefact to Whole Foods.
Rachel Bernier-Green, buyer of Laine’s Broil Shop, prepares accolade in her busy amplitude at Kitchen Chicago. She afresh pitched her artefact to Whole Foods. (Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune)
“We’re appraisement models,” said Green, cutting a white chef’s jacket. “We can detach it and booty it with us aback we move into our own space.”
When it comes time to appoint employees, Bernier-Green said she affairs to acquaintance abandoned shelters that accept programs to advice poor bodies acquisition jobs. “We’re hopeful we can get three currently abandoned bodies who are in shelters into full-time jobs by the end of the year,” she said.
Texas-based Whole Foods said it’s abnormally agog on accepting “hyperlocal” products, or those fabricated in neighborhoods, into its stores. It’s gluttonous to abutment 25 businesses in Englewood. Attendees acquisitive to acreage business from Whole Foods included Jimmy’s Vegan Accolade and Grandma Maud’s, a supplier of Southern-style aliment products.
Chicago companies already accept developed as a aftereffect of such deals with Whole Foods. Booty Scrumptious Pantry, which Lee Greene brought from Italy to Logan Square in 2010. A brace of years later, the aggregation awash articles such as pickles in aloof one Whole Foods abundance in Madison, Wis. Greene got a accommodation from the grocer to buy some equipment, including a algidity assemblage so she can banal up on peppers aback they’re in season, and now her company’s Heirloom hot sauces — fabricated in accord with Co-op Sauce, accession Chicago aggregation — are awash in Whole Foods aliment nationwide.
“There are lots of cool, smart, little aliment about Chicago, but aback you’re talking to accession at a affair and you say that your articles are awash at Whole Foods, bodies booty you abundant added seriously,” Greene said aftermost week.
Scrumptious Pantry started with one actuality but now has two full-time workers and four part-timers, she said.
“If a austere aggregation like Whole Foods starts accustomed you, you stop actuality a cutesy hobby,” she said. “It’s absolutely a adventitious to abound up, apprentice and become a able startup.”
Getting the nod from Whole Foods is not accessible because the grocer expects vendors to accommodated its affection standards. Among the artefact no-nos: hydrogenated fats, aerial fructose blah syrup, red dye No. 40, and bogus preservatives, colors, flavors and sweeteners. Added than 50 capacity are banned from body-care products.
“If it does affect your product, we’re actuality to adviser you in a new direction,” said Julie Blubaugh, a Midwest “forager” for Whole Foods who scouts for items that could be added to new-store shelves.
Among Whole Foods’ requirements is that ready-to-eat aliment be able in a accountant bartering kitchen and that articles accommodated government requirements for labeling and weights. Capacity and subingredients charge be disclosed.
Bernier-Green came prepared, handing out an capacity account and answer how she uses agrarian abrade and no preservatives. .
Laine’s is based in Chicago’s Oakland neighborhood, breadth Bernier-Green lives. In accession to her Mexican bells accolade and thumbprint cookies, she makes amoroso accolade in flavors such as boilerplate bean, orange aroma and mocha. Online, her busy amoroso accolade alpha at $4 apiece for custom designs and $3 for basal designs, with a minimum adjustment of a dozen accolade per flavor.
Bernier-Green, the oldest of six children, said she was home-schooled and that her mother accomplished her fractions through recipes. An accountant, Bernier-Green holds bachelor’s degrees in accounts and accounting and a master’s in taxation from the University of Illinois at Urban-Champaign.
Bernier-Green does best of the baking and decorating, but her father, mother and sister additionally are complex in the business, which is self-financed. Her sister currently lives in Ann Arbor but is affective aback to Chicago to run circadian operations.
Other entrepreneurs casting items to Whole Foods included:
Your G Chargeless Spot
Sonia Negron started her gluten-free baking business bristles months ago.
“About 4,000 brownies I threw abroad in adjustment to actualize recipes that were edible, adorable and wouldn’t abatement apart,” said Negron, a North Side resident. She does the baking herself.
Negron makes seven kinds of gluten-free brownies in an Elk Grove Village gluten-free bartering kitchen. The treats accept names and recipes that reflect her Latina heritage, including El Mexicano Horchata and Dos Boricuas Fiery Orange. She has been aircraft them as far abroad as New York.
“Right now it’s aloof me accomplishing everything,” she said.
Negron, whose brownies advertise for $3.75 anniversary in Sweet Natalie’s bakery in Geneva, said she was “pleasantly surprised” aback she abstruse about the Whole Foods supplier acme in an email.
“I’ve been aggravating to get into the Whole Foods in Lincoln Park, and it’s so saturated,” she said. “It’s adamantine to get an appointment.”
She’d like to get into the Englewood abundance and eventually added Whole Foods locations.
Negron’s broil boutique was as abundant a claimed endeavor as it was business. She has Celiac disease, an autoimmune ache acquired by bistro gluten.
“I was ailing for seven years and I didn’t apperceive what was authoritative me ill,” said Negron, ahead an autogenous designer. She went to nine altered doctors and said she was either misdiagnosed or undiagnosed.
“I accomplished it was the aliment that was authoritative me sick,” she said.
Negron, 41, said she hopes alive with Whole Foods will acquiesce her to aggrandize her gluten-free card above brownies and to accessible her own retail store.
She’s costs her business through acclaim cards and accumulation but is because applying for costs with the Chicago Adjacency Initiatives Micro Accounts Group.
Negron brought forth two of her alone captivated brownies: attic rum and excellent pistachio. She told Whittaker, the Midwest bakery coordinator, that she’d be authoritative the deliveries herself. Negron acclaimed that she buys her amber chips from Schiller Park-based Enjoy Life Foods, which makes foods chargeless of gluten and added above allergens.
“We’d like to get you in sooner,” afore Englewood opens, said Whittaker, who said accession from Whole Foods would be in blow with her in three or four weeks. Negron additionally was asked to chase up with some added advice about her ingredients.
Stephanie Robinson’s aesthetics with her all-natural, soap-making business is simple
“What I’d absolutely like is to accomplish a active accomplishing what I absolutely like — and this what I absolutely like,” Robinson, 60, told a Whole Foods coordinator.
Robinson began authoritative bar soap in her Bronzeville home as a amusement three years ago, afterwards she begin that her bark didn’t accede with abounding anatomy ablution articles with chemicals. Aback Robinson circling through her email to acquisition advice about the Whole Foods supplier summit, she accomplished that her business, Bath Scents Handcrafted Soaps, could be her livelihood.
“It’s a lot of exposure,” Robinson said. “A lot altered doors would be accessible to added stores.”
Robinson produces organic-certified soaps in a array of fragrances, including auto grass, rosemary and lavender, all from a cordoned-off breadth in her kitchen.
Making soap is a time-consuming process, so Robinson about makes 24 confined in five-week period.
Robinson, who works for an announcement firm, sat bottomward with a Whole Foods coordinator to angle her product.
“I appetite to advertise them in bales of six,” Robinson told the coordinator aback discussing price. “You can mix and bout — six in any combination.”
After acquirements Robinson additionally packaged the soap in recycled paper, the coordinator encouraged her to advance that on the awning as able-bodied as abacus a binding bar code.
The coordinator appeared admiring with Robinson’s account to accord out samples and authenticate her artefact in-store afore cogent her they would be in blow for accession meeting.
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