Local food entrepreneurs to share secrets of kitchen success in Cranberry

| Wednesday, April 10, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

Small businesses have to start somewhere — most often, it's in the family kitchen.

That's where Chuck's Salsa, Pretzel Crazy and Kaleido Kone Creamery Inc., began, all within the last 10 years. These three businesses will be a part of the “Good Taste! Pittsburgh” food show at the Pittsburgh Marriott North in Cranberry on April 20.

For Dee Weinberg, the show's creator nine years ago, the event is a “celebration of food as entertainment.” From her years of marketing experience, she has orchestrated a day-long food fest, featuring cooking demonstrations, food samplings and talks about wines, creative recycling of bottles and juicing.

“We started as the Food Network channel was taking off,” she said. “We launched it at the (D.L. Lawrence) Convention Center.”

“Everybody loves food,” Weinberg, of Squirrel Hill, said. “Food is universal, like music. It transcends gender, race and socio-economic classes.”

Chuck's Salsa

Chad Seamon, of Ambridge, turned a good tasting salsa into a business about three years ago.

“It came out of nowhere,” he said.

He'd make up small batches of his salsa after shopping for vegetables in Rogers, Ohio. Friends and neighbors enjoyed the product, and so did customers at his brother's hair salon in Sewickley.

“I always said ‘My salsa is a cut above the rest,'” he punned.

After the salsa gained a following, his mother, having worked for a food broker, urged him to take the next step. In the last year, his salsa has found its way into about 30 stores.

“Little kids love it,” the 37-year-old said.

It seems his fresh, garden salsa has youngsters enjoying vegetables again and according to one customer, her children have become “salsa snobs,” preferring Chuck's to any other.

Seaman used to make, jar and sell the product himself, but a company now produces the condiment.

His website is www.chuckssalsa.com.

Pretzel Dippers

Pre-schoolers loved when Sheri Powell made pretzel treats for her children to share with their classmates in the late 1980s.

With M & M pieces peeking out of the milk chocolate, the teachers could easily hand-out the four-inch sweetened pretzel rods.

Later, Powell, of Franklin Park, took a job at Soergel Orchards and learned a lot about food marketing. Other jobs gave her still more experience, but all the while, the idea for a small business was percolating.

Pretzels, caramel and chocolate seemed to be a great combination.

In 2009, the family installed a health-department-approved kitchen in their basement, and as Powell, 56, put it, “I've been dipping ever since.”

It's all about the creativity. She focuses on crazy names and flavors. Her biggest seller is “Bonkers over Bacon,” a pretzel covered in caramel, dark chocolate and finished with bacon crumbles.

Powell has developed 25 different flavors.

When her website was new, she was more than hopeful.

“The Internet was booming. My son designed a website for me so I could work from home,” she said, “but no one came.”

With thousands of pounds of chocolate, every color of M & M, 15 flavors of candies and a freezer full of nuts, she explained, “I learned the word — network.”

She talked to vendors, did conventions, fundraisers and trade shows. She even traveled to city business lobbies to catch the lunch crowd.

“I work 16 hours a day, seven days a week,” Powell said.

Mornings and evenings, she fills website requests and answers questions. Then, it's off to the kitchen. Her husband, daughter and two neighbors help make her business work.

Powell's website is www.pretzelcrazy.com.

Kaleido Kone Creamery

Beverly Lumley of Portersville had hoped for a career in the food industry, but the high failure rate of restaurants discouraged her. Then, she came upon another idea: ice cream catering.

“I could be in the food industry and be creative at the same time,” she said, pleased that her business plan had received a hearty approval and a grant. Her classes at Malcolm Stogo's Ice Cream University in West Orange, N.J., were invaluable.

She, her husband and 17-year-old son are at the heart of her business, Kaleido Kone Creamery, Inc. Friends also help serving at larger events.

After eight years, she serves more than 200 flavors of homemade ice cream and gelato that can be coated with a variety of sauces, crushed candies or nuts. The dessert can be served in cake cones or inside fresh waffles that can be tinted to match the color theme of any private event.

While the pastel shades are ideal for birthdays, showers, weddings, bat mitzvahs or corporate events, Lumley once created camouflage-colored waffles for a soldier ready to be deployed.

“Weddings are our forte,” Lumley said. “The bride and groom can create their own flavor of ice cream and name it.”

One couple asked for a sweet corn gelato, while another requested a caramel and bacon gelato. Lumley has added wine-infused gelatos to her flavor list and is developing a beer ice cream. New flavors are just a thought away.

“If you can dream it, we can make it,” she said.

A lot of her business has come from food shows.

“There nothing like getting my product in their mouth,” Lumley said. “There's no better advertising you can place.”

Lumley's website is www.kaleidokone.com.

Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6353 or ddreeland@tribweb.com.

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