Vermont Fresh Pasta - 25 Years in Business!March 1, 2017
Many of us may take it for granted that for years we have had delicious, fresh, locally produced pasta available at our Vermont neighborhood grocery stores. In 1992, when Ken and Tricia Jarecki were new owners of Vermont Fresh Pasta, fresh and local was a much harder sell - even the Vermont Fresh Network was yet to be founded. But Ken and Tricia knew what the quality of their homemade and locally sourced pasta would convert the masses - they were right! We asked Ken and Tricia about their milestone - a quarter century in the business - and their journey to this point.
What inspired you to start Vermont Fresh Pasta 25 years ago?
Wanting to move to Vermont from NYC, we built, opened and operated “Powderhounds Restaurant” in Killington in 1987. We were committed to using fresh pasta and ravioli on our menu, so when a small local pasta making business came up for sale in 1992 we purchased it with plans to build it into a year-round business.
What was your vision in the beginning? Has it changed?
Our initial vision was to be a local supplier of fresh, high-quality pasta products.
Our ravioli and pasta was then selected by Whole Foods to become their private label. At that time we were featured in over 50 stores in the New England and North Atlantic regions. Over the last 5-10 years, our Whole Foods business has changed, enabling us to return to our initial vision of becoming a more local supplier of fresh, high-quality pasta products. As a business, we are on a sounder footing now more than ever since all our "eggs" are no longer in "one Whole Foods basket".
Who have your strongest partners been throughout the years?
From the beginning, we have always had a close relationship with Black River Produce which is stronger than ever today. Flour being our main ingredient has been difficult to source locally in both the type, quality and quantity we need. Whenever possible we use local ingredients such as Vermont Creamery Chevre, Vermont Maple Sriracha, Potlicker Kitchen and produce from Black River Produce.
Were there things that you couldn't find then that you see now?
We have always had a very eclectic approach to pasta and ravioli flavors evidenced by the over 100 varieties of pasta and ravioli available. Sourcing hard to find ingredients has always been our forte. We have also tried to accommodate the new trends in eating habits such as organic and vegan. In addition, all Vermont Fresh products are currently non-GMO.
Back then, were you selling to chefs? Who? What were they looking for?
Our business has always been about 50% retail pack and 50% bulk pack for restaurants etc. On any given day in Vermont, we are featured in numerous restaurants throughout the region and have appeared on 100’s of menus over the years. With the current interest in buying local and fresh, we sell to many colleges and universities as well as hospitals and other institutions. Chefs like the fact that we are a made-to-order product. Every week Tricia personally calls each of our customers. We then produce exactly what they want and ship (sometimes multiple times a week) via Black River Produce. Tricia really enjoys speaking with chefs/customers weekly and being able to make their pasta dreams come true!
How has that changed? What are chefs looking for now?
In a sense our approach of being fresh has not changed, we always were and will always be! With Vermont being a leader in the fresh and local food movement, more chefs are now looking for pasta products produced fresh and local. We have also had the opportunity to respond to the many restaurants, colleges and food stores that have embraced this movement.
How are you celebrating a quarter century in business?
We are happy to celebrate that we are still here and business is good! At this moment there is nothing special planned besides getting the word out that we are very proud to say we have been doing this for 25 years! Running your own business, unfortunately, does not allow a lot of time off, however, we would not have traded the experiences of growing Vermont Fresh and the fact that it has allowed us to raise our family and live in Vermont for all these years!
What's does the future hold for VFP?
Vermont Fresh continues to look for new products that fit our vision. In the past few years, we have introduced new pasta products into our line such as Ramen Noodles, Eggroll wrappers, and Gnocchi.
Can you give some advice to folks that may be thinking of starting a Vermont food business today?
Almost every person has had an idea about running their own business. Going from an idea to reality, however, is extremely difficult. Ken has always been a numbers man. Creating a business plan with conservative estimates of sales and overestimated expenses in order to calculate whether the business is viable is a must.