VA Made: Twin Hearts Bakery

Posted by Editorial / Tuesday, February 10th, 2015

Twin Hearts Bakery.

Photo courtesy of Twin Hearts Bakery.

Gist: Home-based, gluten-free bakery of flourless fruit-and-nut cakes

Who: Dietician-turned-baker Theresa Bergida, 59, of Front Royal

Started: “I really should have died,” says Theresa Bergida. After a car accident in 2005, Bergida, a former registered dietician who was then a stay-at-home mom of seven, decided to take better care of her health.

She read Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s “Eat to Live,” lost 40 pounds and, tapping into her previous work helping heart patients, started inviting friends over and teaching them nutrition basics.

“That’s when I started thinking,” says Bergida, of the candy-laden Christmas fruitcake she made for the previous 30 years of holidays, “this recipe is awful.”

Inspiration: Bergida won Dare to Dream, a grant for area women sponsored by Front Royal Women’s Resource Center, and took that $700 as entrepreneurial inspiration. “It gave me enough courage to make that step. I had a little zip to get going with.”

Details: Adapted from a family friend’s recipe, Bergida replaced the candied fruit with dried ones and experimented with different types of nuts and loaf pans for a gluten-free dessert. “It’s a healthy dessert. But it is dessert,” says Bergida. She works almost 40 hours a week out of her home kitchen, which is USDA-certified.

Next: Open for seven years, Twin Hearts now sells in three states and the District of Columbia. Her son, who lives in England, and her daughter, who is moving to Canada, both want to help expand the business internationally./ twinheartsbakery.comStefanie Gans

(February 2015)

VA Made: Together We Bake

Posted by Editorial / Monday, December 22nd, 2014

Photo by Mike Ramm.

Gist: A non-profit teaching female ex-offenders personal development and life skills, plus training in food safety, baking and running a business.

Who: Stephanie Wright and Tricia Sabatini, stay-at-home mothers who combined their expertise—social work and baking—says Sabatini, to “use our talents for good in the community.”

Started: Wright and Sabatini met through their children and became running buddies, completing four marathons together. Over many workouts, the two decided that after more than 10 years out of the workforce, they would start a business helping their Alexandria neighborhood.

Inspiration: A self-taught baker, Sabatini used to run a business out of her house. She taps two recipes from her repertoire—chocolate chip cookies and cinnamon pecan granola—to teach baking. The business component includes food safety certification, labeling, packaging, marketing and social media training. Treats are sold at the Alexandria Whole Foods, Del Ray Farmers Market, Market 2 Market and Cheesetique, among others.

Details: They found partners in Friends of Guest House, a non-profit housing and support system for ex-offenders, and Downtown Baptist Church, which provides rent-free space and a commercial-grade kitchen with a 20-rack oven. (They only use 10 racks at a time: cookies need air flow.)

Next: Wright and Sabatini are looking for more business partners, especially local businesses willing to employ graduates—71 women since January 2013—and finding more outlets to sell cookies and granola. /  —Stefanie Gans

(December 2014)

VA Made: The Popcorn Bag

Posted by Editorial / Thursday, October 16th, 2014

The Popcorn Bag

Photo courtesy of The Popcorn Bag.

Gist: Sixty-plus flavors of popcorn

Who: Jim Ford, 57, a retired Marine Corps musician

Started: In 2009 “when the economy tanked, people couldn’t afford beauty treatments,” says Ford, so his girlfriend (now wife) Helen Ford, an esthetician and massage therapist, looked for a new line of work.

Inspiration: When Helen visited Dallas with her sister and left a popcorn store, surprising herself by spending $25 worth of kernels, her sister suggested they open their own shop in Houston. Now married and living together in Fredericksburg, Ford replicated his wife’s business model and opened The Popcorn Bag in January 2013; Helen is back to esthetics.

Details: “We can match any kind of food, or dish, in popcorn,” says Ford, who employs oils, seasonings, spices—and the real thing—including actual bacon, chocolate and cheese, to create wide-ranging flavors. His time stationed in Japan influenced his next batch of flavors: wasabi soy ranch, seaweed and green tea. The Popcorn Bag makes three types of flavored popcorns: savory (bacon cheeseburger, coconut curry and chicken and waffles); candy and caramel; (sour watermelon tastes just like a Jolly Rancher); and specialty (birthday cake, orange creamsicle and salted dark chocolate caramel).

Next: By the end of this month, Ford hopes to open his second location, also in Fredericksburg, in a bigger space that will allow him to double capacity and introduce online ordering. /  —Stefanie Gans

(October 2014)

VA Made: Balsamo’s Family Kitchen

Posted by Editorial / Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

Balsamo’s Family Kitchen (The Extended Balsamo Family)

The Extended Balsamo Family. Photo courtesy of Balsamo’s Family Kitchen.

The debut product, 7 Salad Dressing, also works as a dip, marinade and sauce for pasta.

Tamara Gallik, a single mother of seven children between the ages of 12 and 31

When Gallik’s husband died suddenly five years ago, she had never worked outside the home. The first two years “I was in shock,” she says, then her oldest son Jonathan Balsamo “tried to encourage me to go out into the workforce and I was hesitant. I always told him, ‘Find what you love to do and figure out a way to make money doing it. And you will love what you’re doing and it won’t feel like work.’ And he kind of turned that around on me.”

Based on her sister’s red wine vinegar and oil dressing, Gallik reworked the recipe to be “spicy, yet sweet,” says Gallik—adding cayenne and turmeric—and has been making it for the last 10 years for family and friends. “They want it in an IV,” she says. Gallik officially started the company last fall and sells the dressing online and at area farmers markets.

The name represents many sevens in Gallik’s life, the number of spices in the dressing; the number of children she has; she’s the seventh youngest in her family of 20 brothers and sisters; and it’s “God’s favorite number,” says Gallik, “it means angelic perfection.”

“That’s up to God,” says Gallik. As for her business, “try another dressing.” / balsamosfamilykitchen.comStefanie Gans

(July 2014)

VA Made: Shenandoah Spice Company

Posted by Editorial / Monday, June 23rd, 2014

Shenandoah Spice Company

Photo courtesy of the Shenandoah Spice Company.

Gist: Herbs and seasonings, blended by hand

Who: Nick Crabill, 33, and childhood friend Josh Burrows, 34, started the company in the early aughts and Burrows’ wife Megan, 28, joined the operations a few years later. When the two had been dating for a couple of months, Megan remembers seeing: “random things that said ‘Rub It In’ and I was kind of thinking to myself, ‘Alright it’s been long enough, I can find out what this is about.’” Once she learned about the spice company—and its naughty tag line—she encouraged them to sell at farmers markets.

Started: Canoeing on the Shenandoah River, Crabill told Burrows he needed to fill shelf space and boost retail at his family’s butcher shop, Crabill’s Meats, opened in 1962. Burrows, a recent culinary school graduate and then-chef at Bryce Resort in Mt. Jackson, suggested selling private-label seasoning blends at the butchery.

Inspiration: From that conversation on the canoe, Crabill and Burrows developed three initial blends to enhance different meats at the butchery, including selling pre-seasoned meats.

Details: Many of the spice blends start with customer requests, especially salt-free concoctions. Burrows researches using spice encyclopedias and barbecue recipe books and then tests each blend using grilling, baking and sauteing methods.

Next: Jalepeno-based Hot Monkey Sauce, the company’s first foray outside of spices, will debut this year. /  shenandoahspicecompany.comStefanie Gans

(June 2014)

VA Made: Virginia Chocolate Company

Posted by Editorial / Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

By Stefanie Gans

Virginia Chocolate Company Habanero Chocolate Bar

Photo by Mike Ramm.


Virginia Chocolate Company Peanut Butter Bacon Chocolate

Photo by Mike Ramm.

Gist: Chocolates (40 flavors), truffles (400 flavors), jellies, brittles, barks and fudges handmade in Stafford

Who: Former paralegal Tim Douglas, 42, opened Virginia Chocolate Company ten years ago.

Started: “I hate to admit it, but I was really good at my job,” says Douglas at his time at the (now defunct) debt-collecting firm Mann Bracken, where he helped sue 40,000 Virginians in one year alone. After almost a decade there, he quit right before Christmas. Needing money for presents, he sold hand-dipped truffles, a skill he picked up from a French chef at his foster mother’s restaurant Le Petit Chef in Vermont, more than 25 years before.

Inspiration: When a customer requested a rose-flavored truffle, Douglas thought it was too floral: “It was like getting my mouth washed out with soap.” He remedied the garden-overload by resurrecting the scented memories of his two months living in India, mixing cardamom with rose oil.

Details: Labeled “Very Hot!,” the Spicy Habanero milk chocolate bar uses chilies from the Falls Church Farmers Market, cream from a small farm in Pennsylvania and for extra heat, the notoriously capsaicin-concentrated ghost pepper. “I’m a little sadistic with that one,” says Douglas.

Next: Expanding into a bigger facility, opening kiosks in local malls (Springfield, Fair Oaks, Tysons) and offering calico (combining milk, dark and white chocolate) Easter bunnies.

(April 2014)

VA Made: The Essential Table

Posted by Editorial / Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

The Essential Table's selection of jams

Photo courtesy of The Essential Table

Gist – Savory jams engineered to enhance dinner party fare—for the gourmand or the kitchen-afraid.

Who – High school (in Martinsburg, W. Va.) and college (West Virginia University) friends: Bethany Allen-Perez, 34, and Beth Lehman, 34.

Started - The two lost touch when Allen-Perez moved to Atlanta for an interior design job, but when she moved to Winchester the two reconnected. With both acquiring master degrees in marketing, their dinners turned into brainstorming sessions about starting a business. By mid-2012 they decided on a line of jams.

InspirationAfter trying a burger topped with onion jam, Allen-Perez remembers thinking: “It’s sweet. It’s savory. It could go with pizza. It could go with cheese.” She says, “We wanted to create something that could go on any menu.”

Details - Allen-Perez and Lehman conducted focus groups on 10 jam flavors. The first success: Bourbon Onion Jam, which started as a bacon onion jam until, as Allen-Perez explains, “putting a meat product in a jar is pretty much impossible.” Instead, Allen-Perez, the cook of the operation—Lehman jokes, “I just sold my house and I could have sold it as ‘Kitchen Never Used.’”—turned to bourbon as the main flavor. They sold their first jam last April.

NextRed Wine Onion and Peach Serrano jam debuts next month. And eventually: pickles, drink mixes, serving trays and, says Lehman, “everything that encompasses a dinner party.”/ theessentialtable.comStefanie Gans

(February 2014)

VA Made: Basic Beverages

Posted by Editorial / Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

Photo courtesy of Sarah Schultz-Taylor.

GIST: A cold-brewed concentrate for less bitter coffee.

WHO: The Qura siblings: Christina, 27, and Tim, 25, of Warrenton. 

STARTED: In June, when Christina, then working in New Mexico as a massage therapist, emailed Tim an article about cold-pressed coffee and asked if he wanted to start a company. Timothy, who just the day before thought about opening a brewery, said, “OK, sure, that sounds awesome.”

The Quras come from a restaurant family: their parents owned Verona, an Italian restaurant in Manassas, and her mom now runs Cheesecake Heaven Drive Through in Warrenton.

INSPIRATION: Christina suffered from what she calls coffee belly—“It makes my stomach burn”—and acid reflux. She looked into drinking alkaline water, which, according to the Mayo Clinic, can neutralize acid in the bloodstream.

DETAILS: The flagship product, a coffee concentrate, uses alkaline water from Fauquier County infused with a medium-dark blend of Mexican and Central American beans roasted in Alexandria. For 24 hours the grounds sit in 37-degree water at a 7.5 pH level. The slow infusion creates a less acidic liquid. Four ounces is the equivalent to a double shot of espresso or a cup-and-a-half of coffee.

NEXT: Creating tea and super fruit juices using alkaline water. / basicbeverages.comStefanie Gans

(December 2013)

VA Made: Picky Eaters + Three Moms + Vitamix = Ice Pops

Posted by Carten Cordell / Thursday, September 19th, 2013

Photo courtesy of Heather Engen

What started as simple breakfast smoothies for their children has turned into a full-fledged business. Cecilia Showalter, Heather Fruzzetti and Bree Murphy started TruMoms LLC, a healthy snack business selling TruPops, a frozen puree made from fruits and vegetables.

“We know that parents want better options for their kids, both for convenience sake and to get rid of the daily battle,” says Showalter. “You want to feed your kids something healthy and what’s out there for them is filled with a lot of junk.”  

The moms (part-time professionals—lawyers, corporate strategist) used their days off for brainstorming. “We try to include one vegetable and one superfood in every pop,” says Showalter, with the ubiquitous strawberry and the trendy chia seeds making it into the formula.  Afterschool snacking has gone foodie./ $3, trumomfoods.blogspot.comRachel Sanez

(September 2013)

Gearharts Chocolates Peanut Butter Pups

Posted by Carten Cordell / Friday, May 24th, 2013

Candy honors companion dogs.

By Lindsey Jenkins


Courtesy of Gearharts Fine Chocolates

Tim Gearhart began his culinary career as a line cook in Kuwait serving 20,000 Marines a day. After leaving the service, Gearhart graduated from culinary school and for the past 12 years owns chocolate shops in Charlottesville and Richmond.

Now that Gearhart has a 4-year-old, he wanted to create a more kid-friendly environment in his stores. “I came up with the idea for a little peanut butter pup,” says Gearhart, who blends Virginia-based Reginald’s Homemade peanut butter into a creamy, sweet filling for the inside of the chocolate candy—with dark chocolate eyes and nose, and toasted almond ears.

Gearhart often donates his creations to local auctions and wanted to use the pups to raise money as well. “We didn’t seem to be getting much traction with places like the SPCA,” says Gearhart, who then found out about Companions For Heroes (C4H).

Air Force vet David Sharpe started C4H after he returned from Pakistan and began to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. The violent outbursts and depression began to take its toll until the day Sharpe met Virginia shelter rescue dog, Cheyenne. The tiny pit bull quickly became Sharpe’s best friend; C4H now helps other vets find their Cheyenne. Five percent of the profits from the peanut butter pups go to the non-profit.

But what’s Gearhart’s son think? “He loves them [but] he doesn’t even want to eat them because they’re so cute.” /


(May 2013)

Page 1 of 612345...Last »