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Performing Art
Kristine Insalaco-Gaioni hand chops chocolate, which she adds to organic raspberries to create a confection for her business, Lick My Spoon.
Arts and Entertainment Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014 6 years ago

The Business of Local

by: Mallory Gnaegy A&E Editor

Grocery stores are full of ideas. Every aisle has hundreds of them. Each product on the shelf started as an idea. Someone somewhere had a passion for it, and cultivated it beyond his four walls to bring it to stores, where it sits among other ideas.

That someone somewhere is in Sarasota, and these four foodie entrepreneurs share how their ideas have grown into businesses.

Beans are good for the heart
As a young couple, Dimitry and Holly Erez had busy jobs in consulting. She’d travel between Manhattan and Boston, and he was gone for weeks all over the world. It was exciting because they could fly to interesting places for a weekend, but both were ready to settle.

Whenever Dimitry Erez was in town, Holly Erez knew where to find him — he was always at the local coffee house working.

So in 2003 it was natural they open a coffee wholesale business, Latitude 23.5 Coffee and Tea. Back then they started the foundation with another couple and simultaneously opened five retail coffee shop locations. In 2006, they bought out the other couple and shifted out of retail — they wanted to focus on wholesale distribution.

The beans are roasted in-house in a little roaster off Tallevast Road, where they roast more than 2,000 pounds of beans a day. They work directly with distributors who distribute the beans under private labels such as Island Joes out of Key West or C’est La Vie on Main Street.

You can, however, find beans under the Latitude name at all 20 Whole Food Markets in Florida.

“Growth (is our goal),” Holly Erez says. “And working with some distributors on a more national level. It would be great to have a nationwide account.”

Inspired by family
James D’Esterre’s mother, Annalida D’Esterre, used to make big batches of homemade bloody mary mix in her brownstone for her neighbors to congregate, eat drink and be merry (pun intended).

That’s where the name for his business comes from, and why his mom’s face is on the label.

Annalida’s Gourmet Foods carries everything from mustards and relish to 100% lump crab cakes but is most famous (at least locally, for now) for its two bloody mary mixes and hot sauce.

It started in 2004 when D’Esterre and a partner opened a booth at the farmers market selling sausages, hot dogs and breakfast wraps. D’Esterre made the sauces for the booth, and they were enough of a hit that he could start his own separate venture. Now, each week he sells 300 bottles of his Absolutely Without A Doubt The Best Bloody Mary Mix.

And he sees more in his future. He’s working on creating a pasteurized version of it so he can expand nationally.

“I’d like to have a little place in an industrial park where trucks go in and go out,” he says.

Hobby to wholesale
For 25 years, James Urbaniak bought sausage from a Hungarian butcher in Pennsylvania. When the butcher said he was retiring and going back to the old country, Urbaniak asked him, “But where am I going to get my sausage?” The butcher took six months teaching Urbaniak, a management consultant working in energy, how to make sausage.

When Urbaniak retired to Sarasota, he continued making authentic Eastern European sausage for friends and family. He rented a kitchen and set up a booth at Sarasota Farmers Market — and in 2008, TransAtlantic Sausage Co. was born.

Urbaniak developed recipes to suit people’s demand. When one woman asked him to make seven-spice Lebanese lamb, he met her request. When Javier Arana of Javier’s Restaurant wanted chorizo, or Nancy Krohngold wanted Texas-style hot links for Nancy’s Bar-B-Q, Urbaniak obliged.

The demand led to opening a retail store for two years.   

“It got too big for myself and my wife to have as a hobby — we were working around the clock all the time,” he says.

Instead, Urbaniak turned to Geier’s Sausage Kitchen — a USDA approved facility that produces wholesale sausage to clients such as Ikea and Disney World — to make his sausage under his label.

He went from producing 25 pounds of sausage weekly to more than 100. He sells wholesale to places such as Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, Javier’s Restaurant, Nancy’s Bar-B-Q and Sarasota Polo Club.
“What started as retirement boomed into a business,” he says.

And now, the 68-year-old is hoping to retire from retirement and pass his business and secret recipes on to the next interested sausage enthusiast.

Sights set overseas
Kristine Insalaco-Gaioni is a nurse. Shortly after she met her husband, they founded an Italian import company, Sapore Della Vita. In April, she decided to start making her own line of all-natural and organic confections sold under the name “Lick My Spoon.”

Insalaco-Gaioni is self-taught from her family and from her husband’s Italian mother. She’s been making jams for 13 years — the first was an orange marmalade, and it burned.

Since her start a few months ago, she’s already received much success. Seedling Projects, a national organization focusing on sustainable food, recently bestowed her with its Good Food Award for her caramel sauce confection. She also offers flavors such as a chocolate raspberry spread, RazzaMa Tazz; a coconut banana spread, CoCoNaNa; and a pistachio cream, Crema di Pistacchi. A curated sweet box shipped monthly from carries her line. And in September, Zingerman’s food-by-mail catalog will carry her products.

Everything she makes is small batch and she even hand labels and cuts all the ribbons on the cute packaging — the most she makes is 12 jars at a time. She sells 200 Lick My Spoons products a week, but expects that’s about to change.

Ideally she hopes to bring it overseas and sell them in her husband’s hometown village in Italy, Lago Maggiore.

Where to get the goods:

Annalida’s Gourmet Foods:
-Pepperonata Pasta, 4141 S. Tamiami Trail
-Morton’s Gourmet Market, 1924 S. Osprey Ave.
-As Good As It Gets, 49 S. Palm Ave.
-Liquor Locker, 5403 Fruitville Road
-The Butcher Block, 3242 17th St.
-Siesta Market, 205 Canal Road
-Sarasota Farmers Market

Transatlantic Sausage Co.
-Call Geier’s Sausage Kitchen, 923-3004
-Call Transatlantic Sausage Co. 921-2253

Lattitude 23.5 Coffee and Tea
-Whole Foods, 1451 First St.

Sapore Della Vita’s Lick My Spoon
-As Good As It Gets, 49 S. Palm Ave.
-Morton’s Gourmet Market, 1924 S. Osprey Ave.
-The Short Giraffe, 1412 State St.

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