We had the good fortune of connecting with Spencer Stackhouse and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Spencer, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
After having completed culinary school and worked in other chef’s kitchens for almost a decade, I decided it was high time I started something on my own. Initially this started as a part time side gig while working for another small CPG company in Boulder, but things continued to grow and grow until it became a full-time gig. It’s been super rewarding to be your own boss and set your own schedule, but it also means you’re pretty much working all the time! I really enjoy the chance to try out new things, especially when the farmer’s market is in season and we can easily bring new options to test out and get feedback from customers and samplers. I think the two motivating factors to getting going were wanting to be in charge and also to be able to have the creative outlet with cooking/baking that is often pushed to the back burner when you’re focused on someone else’s business. It’s also been great to have the opportunity to learn a lot more about the side of the culinary industry that isn’t in the kitchen, from marketing and branding to the more tedious accounting and regulatory requirements that must be maintained. I’ve also grown substantially as a leader and manager as I’ve had to staff and operate a busy production bakery and farmer’s market booths, giving me lots of time to think about the manager I want to be and how to best be that person — something that’s constantly a work in progress. I knew there would be so much to learn when starting out but some of the things have been a surprise and others have been a bit more expected — like, I’m quite good at bookkeeping but have a really tough time finding the right balance between being the owner/manager and friend to our staff.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
One of the things we’re most proud of and excited about is the truly local and high quality ingredients we’ve been able to source. Most of our ingredients being commodities are less easy to find locally than the veggies or meat you get at the farmer’s market or in a locally-focused restaurant. That said though we’ve been able to get Colorado grown and milled organic flour as well as sunflower oil from seeds grown and pressed here leaving just the salt and raw sugar to come from further abroad. Speaking of the sugar, a good example of our commitment to this priority was an instance where a customer asked about the vegan nature of our pretzels, specifically the sugar. I didn’t realize that most sugar, including the brown sugar we were previously using, is highly processed and often uses animal bones in the bleaching part (brown sugar is just regular white sugar with some molasses added back). Since certified organic sugar cannot use any of those techniques or animal by-products, it was an easy choice to switch to a better quality albeit more costly sugar once this information was made clear! What all this means is simply that I’ve learned being transparent and authentic is unique and something you are seeing more and more with small food companies. This authenticity is what has drawn people to this burgeoning sector of the food industry both as consumers and makers. Being able to be passionate about food and ingredients in a way that allows you to share that passion is exciting for everyone involved and isn’t something I thought people were interested to know until after getting into business for myself!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
That is such a fun question. I’d definitely split the time up between exploring the Front Range of Colorado and then some time dedicated to a mountain town — probably Steamboat Springs. On the way up to Steamboat we’d probably have to get some good turns in at A-Basin or Loveland Ski Area so that we could really enjoy soaking in Strawberry Hot Springs the next day while staying in Steamboat (where we could also get into some of Colorado’s best skiing). In addition to exploring some of the breweries and restaurants in the city’s cute downtown, we’d also do some hiking or snowshoeing as well! I’d be tempted to check out Breckenridge or Crested Butte or Aspen instead, but I think Steamboat would win out! Back on the Front Range we’d have to explore some of the scenic vistas from the mountains west of my hometown, Boulder. Maybe some hiking on Flagstaff Mountain before or after some beers at one of my favorite local spots, Mountain Sun Brewing on Pearl Street (or Under the Sun or Southern Sun in South Boulder). I’d also be tempted to bar hop on Pearl and have a very Italian American style meal at Boulder’s Pasta Jay’s, a family tradition of ours and a staple of the city. Aside from time spent in Boulder proper we’d probably spend a day out east in Lafayette where we live now, enjoying the restaurants and bars located in the picturesque old mining portion of the town where most awesomely is an old Sonic drive thru that was turned into an off leash dog park and craft beer bar called Romero’s K9 Club! We’d certainly have dinner at Efrain’s Mexican Restaurant, another community institution and delicious iteration of the Mexican American food common to the Denver area (green chile!) I’d want to spend some time in Fort Collins eating and drinking at some of the best microbreweries in the world, Odell, New Belgium, Snowbank Brewing, and Horse & Dragon Brewing (all customers of ours) are located on a short stretch of Lincoln Avenue, making them all easy to check out with a bike! Of course, no trip to Colorado is complete without exploring some of Denver. We’d definitely pop around RiNo and spend some time down on South Broadway, beers at Baere Brewing would definitely be the starting point, but between rideshares or e-scooter, we would definitely scoot around central Denver. It’d be great to find a time to get up to Morrison for some time to check out Red Rocks Amphitheater, either for a hike or a show, as well as a Rockies game downtown if that’s an option too! The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
First and foremost I’d say I have to highlight the important role traveling abroad, especially spending many months in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan, over the course of a couple years, had on my interest in food, culture, and nutrition. It’s almost difficult to remember but I was a very picky eater, for the most part, before heading to college. Traveling/living abroad definitely changed that — partially because I didn’t want to be “that guy” who refused to eat things that were different because I was too afraid…sounds lame to say but that definitely pushed me to get out of my comfort zone. It made me realize that all food is just culture — what we eat is just what we are accustomed to, and you can acclimate to anything! I’d also have to say Michael Pollan’s literature, Ominivore’s Dilemma, especially, had a big impact on my thinking about food, culture, and health. I also really enjoy pretty much anything that Anthony Bourdain did — his shows, his writing, his curiosity and openness to people and food is an inspiration to me and many others I know personally — he was really a positive force in the food industry. Culinary school at NYC’s French Culinary Institute (No longer here thanks to Covid – RIP) really connected me to other like minded people who were passionate about food just like me. I have many great friends from culinary school and from working in NYC after graduation that have continued to inspire and push me. Katie Khan and Ashley Giddens are two of those former classmates and co-workers that have really inspired and supported me along this journey — and I am so glad we had the chance to connect over a shared passion!