Local vendors win shelf space at Winn-Dixie stores

Karin Bradshaw and Patrick McGill developed Evil Seed Sauce Co. because they sought spicier flavors. They turned it into a business that won a spot in Winn-Dixie's local vendor program.
Karin Bradshaw and Patrick McGill developed Evil Seed Sauce Co. because they sought spicier flavors. They turned it into a business that won a spot in Winn-Dixie's local vendor program.
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Chris Diedrich knew the day was brewing.

On April 7, the one-man coffee roasting company stopped by his neighborhood Winn-Dixie around noontime to pick up some sour cream for dinner.

There it was — validation of his hard work and his willingness to take an entrepreneurial risk.

Bags of his Pura Bean Coffee Company blends were being stocked on a shelf of a major U.S. grocery chain, after more than a year of testing, roasting, tasting and marketing.

“It’s just cool. There’s no other way to describe it,” Diedrich said. “It’s hard to imagine that something I created is on the shelf of a grocery store, especially Winn-Dixie.”

Just 15 months ago he became official with the state as Pura Bean Holdings Inc. Just a year ago, the samples he offered ignited a good response outside the Magnificat Café during the One Spark crowdfunding festival. And just 45 days ago, he left a full-time job as a mortgage broker.

“This is more fun to me than it is a job or a business,” said Diedrich, who turns 41 this week.

Diedrich roasts his coffee beans in a small roaster at the Magnificat Café Downtown after the lunch hours. That may soon change.

He ordered a larger roaster, considering Winn-Dixie’s first order was almost 2,000 bags and the second was 410. His blends include the proprietary “Ortega” medium dark roast made especially for the Winn-Local Florida program.

Diedrich is working on a lease for a Five Points storefront where he also will offer a coffee bar and start with four to six employees.

“I know I have to keep moving forward and pushing it,” he said.

Pura Bean Coffee Company is one of the 11 area vendors whose products will be stocked in up to 77 Winn-Dixie supermarkets in Northeast Florida in its Winn-Local Florida program.

Winn-Dixie chose the 11 from the 19 vendors who pitched their products last fall. The products are grouped in store displays for easy identification.

As a result, customers can buy Jacksonville-made sauces, jams, honey, coffee and spices. Many of the products are crafted by hand in small batches in small kitchens by a small, sometimes just one-person, crew.

Some, like Pura Bean, are led by entrepreneurs in their 40s who parted with full-time corporate jobs to give it a go in the food business, selling products they spent months or longer to create.

Many have been selling at area farmers’ markets, including the Riverside Arts Market. Many already are found in local restaurants, stores and other venues. Most sell online.

The vendors interviewed said their Winn-Dixie deal is pushing them into another realm of enterprise, upping their production and in some cases, necessitating better equipment, larger spaces and even storefronts.

None wanted to share how much their sales revenue could increase, but all said it is a huge boost.


FreshJax: 'Passionate health nuts'

Jason and Hillary McDonald are placing a dozen spices, sauces, mixes and a topping on the shelves of 62 Winn-Dixie stores.

Through FreshJax, which they began in 2011, the couple continues to pursue their café, yoga and healthy living venture.

As a result of the Winn-Dixie deal, they hired a full team of “passionate health nuts who love what they do,” Jason McDonald said.

Later this year they intend to open a health-food café and yoga studio, as well as a large commercial kitchen to handle the Winn-Dixie products. McDonald said they haven’t signed the lease yet for the 5,000-square-foot center in Mandarin.

McDonald expects to employ 20-30 people at the storefront. They currently rent a commercial kitchen near Downtown.

Their Winn-Dixie products include coconut bacon, which actually is coconut and spices that taste like bacon, hot sauces, maple cinnamon fruit and dessert topping and sea salts.

McDonald, 38, started the company after dropping 40 pounds and began clean eating and exercising. Hillary McDonald, 32, is a master yoga teacher at UNF.

They, too, were discovered by Winn-Dixie at the Riverside Arts Market. McDonald said he reacted with “pure excitement” when the couple heard they were chosen.

“I can finally put my MBA from UNF to good use,” he said.


Little Black Box: 'It makes us a much more stable company'

Crystal Israel creates and produces her Little Black Box jams and jellies in a Southside storefront.

Israel, 44, left the corporate world of restaurant management, deciding that if she was working 50-60 hours a week, “why don’t I do this for myself?”

When launching Little Black Box LLC in July 2013, she started making baked goods, but sought more interesting fillings. So she developed them herself, “eclectic” jams and jellies good for cooking, topping ice cream, gracing pancakes. “It’s beyond the idea of breakfast and toast,” she said.

She cooks in small batches and every task is done by hand, from weighing products to filling jars to attaching the labels. She and two part-time employees do the work.

Israel sells in markets, small stores and restaurants. Winn-Dixie discovered her at the Riverside Arts Market. She made the October pitch and her products were on the shelves April 10.

“It’s huge,” Israel said. “It is the dream coming to fruition. Is it really there? It is. Those are my products. I made that.”

Israel said her team is making four flavors for the stores — brandied vanilla pear, blackberry bourbon vanilla, Punchy Monkey and spiced plum. They make several hundred at a time. Winn-Dixie just placed its second order.

“When you ultimately do thousands of jars, it’s a huge jump. It makes us a much more stable company,” she said.

She said wholesaling her products rounds out the retail sales and the specialty business, like making jams and jellies for special events.

While she has a storefront with five tables, and an online menu, Israel said the business doesn’t offer regular hours because of the production work. She also continues to sell baked goods and offer classes.

“I can spend 11 hours here and it doesn’t feel like it,” she said. “It’s such a difference getting up and going to work than what I did in a corporate environment.”


Stubbees: 'Is it possible to do that?'

Winn-Dixie discovered 20-year-old beekeeper and honey purveyor Justin Stubblefield at a farmers’ market in Atlantic Beach and asked him to make his pitch.

“They said to bring eight of your products and it was a straightforward, if we like you, we will take it all,” said Stubblefield, co-founder of Stubbees, nicknamed “the gold standard of honey.”

Winn-Dixie took it all, including raw honey and flavored raw cream honeys.

Stubblefield started beekeeping at the age of 16 at his family’s farm in Mandarin. After high school, he began selling honey in farmers markets with his mom.

Finding that not everyone appreciated the flavor and benefits of honey, they combined it with organic fruits, resulting in creamed honey.

His products already were found in markets, restaurants and clubs throughout Northeast Florida. Now they’re in 62 Winn-Dixie stores.

“When you start out, it’s like, is it possible to do that? Are you able to put your foot in the door?” he said.

Stubblefield said his team has produced more than 1,025 pounds of honey for Winn-Dixie.

His next steps could be adding employees to the family-operated venture and expanding into more stores.

“We want to take care of all of our locals, we want to take care of Northeast Florida, but whoever wants it, we want to be able to provide for it,” he said.


Evil Seed Sauce Co.: 'This is it'

Patrick McGill and Karin Bradshaw tired of the “same old, same old” hot sauces. They wanted something spicier.

They created a few sauces, just for fun. Friends liked what they sampled, and the couple began bottling their sauces. In January 2012, Evil Seed Sauce Co. LLC was official.

It was a change for their 20-year careers. McGill sold cellphones and Bradshaw was an insurance adjuster.

“We just said this is it. Nobody complains about hot sauce,” McGill said.

They’ve created more than 35 recipes and they bottle in a Beaver Street commercial kitchen. Winn-Dixie discovered Evil Seed at the Riverside Arts Market and now four sauces are on the shelves, including the Asylum Crazy Hot Sauce.

McGill said the chain placed its first order for 144 cases and two days later another 144.

His first look at the Winn-Dixie Evil Seed display resulted in shock and awe.

“I had worked toward that goal for a long time, to get into a major chain. We didn’t think we had a shot,” he said.

McGill said the couple continues to handle all the bottling, and now they’re in the kitchen almost daily.

They set up at markets on weekends. He hasn’t seen a need to hire anyone else yet.

The couple, both 44, envision expansion, perhaps into other regional Winn-Local areas.

The exposure is a marketing benefit, too. “It’s opened up a lot of opportunities,” he said.

Space on the shelves

Winn-Dixie chose 11 local vendors for product placement in 77 Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia stores. The vendors, where they’re based and their products are:

• Big Carl’s BBQ Sauce, Brunswick, Ga., barbecue sauce

• DeLand Bakery, DeLand, bakery products

• Evil Seed Sauce Co., Jacksonville, sauces

• FreshJax, Jacksonville, spices, sauces and snacks

• KJB Specialties, Jacksonville, barbecue sauce

• Little Black Box, Jacksonville, jams

• Minorcan Datil Peppers, St. Augustine, peppers and sauces

• No Name Sauce, Perry, barbecue sauce

• Pura Bean Coffee Company. Jacksonville, coffee

• Raneri’s Gourmet, Jacksonville, sauces

• Stubbees, Jacksonville, honey



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