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Mom-coach-entrepreneur spoon feeds a niche

hood_taylor_sigA one-handed, self-dispensing spoon for babies? Yes, please.

Parents can understand. Especially if they have kids who are close in age. The phone is ringing, the oven is smoking, older brother is writing on the walls and baby is wailing for food. Parenting can be overwhelming, to say the least.

That’s why when something comes along that makes it a bit easier, people tend to notice. That’s exactly what University of New Mexico alumnus and Albuquerque entrepreneur Gina Cormier has done with the Yummy Spoon.

The spoon is a simple children’s spoon made from BPA-free, food-grade silicone. The handle is a large balloon-shaped pad with a cap on the end. After removing the cap, the owner simply places whatever he or she wants into the spoon, from yogurt to bananas. Then a slight squeeze and the food is pushed out into the spoon for easy access for baby.

Yummy Spoon was born of experience. “I was mixing up my son’s food and I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, it would be so much easier if I could just mix this banana in the actual spoon and then just feed him with one device,'” Cormier told the Journal. Her brother encouraged her to make a prototype. That’s when the real work began.

“In my eyes it was just going to be so easy. OK, I’ll just take my idea and I’ll just go to a plastics mold. … But that’s not the case, obviously,” Cormier said.

Everything from packaging to production took hours of research.

“I’ve learned so much about food-grade silicone and what can go in dishwashers, or microwaves, or freezers,” Cormier said. “As a stay-at-home mom, I knew I wanted it to be easily cleanable, BPA-free and that you could transport it easily.”

Cormier manages to keep her friendly attitude despite the massive workload that she faces daily. She is the mother of three small children, an entrepreneur, a long-distance runner and the girls soccer coach at Sandia Prep.

Like many small startups, Cormier’s is operated from her home. What is rare about Cormier’s business is the success that it has met.

Last year, Yummy Spoon was voted “Product of the Year” by the nation’s largest-volume retailers, such as Target, CVS and Walgreens, among others, at the Efficient Collaborative Retail Marketing Tradeshow in Orlando, Fla. Hundreds of products were presented at the show, representing six categories. Yummy Spoon was voted first overall.

It was also named one of the Top Nine inventions of 2016 by Georgia Tech.

The Yummy Spoon sells for $19.99, and a two-pack is available for $25.99. A portion of all sales go to the Yummy Support Program, which provides nutritious meals to hungry children.

Yummy Spoon is sold on Amazon and at www.yummyspoon.com.

Aztec Spirits

Steve Jarrett, the master distiller at Aztec Spirits in Santa Fe, moves bourbon that has been mixed with wood chips through a wood barrel and into another container. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal

Steve Jarrett, the master distiller at Aztec Spirits in Santa Fe, moves bourbon that has been mixed with wood chips through a wood barrel and into another container. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Business is “booming” for Santa Fe-based distillery Aztec Spirits, according to co-owner Rowland Hill. The distillery, which makes two brands of bourbon and vodka, Aztec Brand and its new Dire Wolf, launched 17 months ago but didn’t really get moving until spring of 2016, co-owner George Schurman says.

But the young distillery is expecting 2017 to be a big year. It has its Aztec Brand spirits in “the well” in a number of local restaurants.

“Just off the top of my head, we are in Scalo, Geckos, Imbibe, Billy’s Long Bar, Parque Central and the Library, so it’s getting out there,” Hill said.

If you include Albertsons, Kelly’s, Total Wine and soon to be Costco and Sam’s Club, Aztec Distillery is showing up everywhere.

Aztec Spirits' Dire Wolf Bourbon logo. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Dire Wolf, a new brand of bourbon from Aztec Spirits in Santa Fe is designed to be a local product that can be distributed nationally. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

But the launch of Dire Wolf changes everything for Aztec, according to Hill. “We want to stay local as much as possible, obviously, but we have a brand that I believe we can launch nationally.”

National distribution was the main inspiration behind Dire Wolf. “Aztec tends to skew towards the southwest, just because of the brand,” explained Hill.

In the 17 months since Aztec opened, owners Hill, Schurman and Karen Lubliner have expanded to Texas and Louisiana. 2017 will see Aztec expand to New York, New Jersey, Arizona, Pennsylvania and Connecticut. Hill has set a goal of 10 states by the end of the year.

Aztec operates out of a 6,000-square-foot facility, which, according to Schurman is twice as large as when it started.

“We can produce 150,000 cases a year right now,” said Hill. “But if we need more than that, apart from running around the block screaming, ‘YES! YES! YES!,’ we are in a situation where we can adapt.”

Aztec has a process for making good vodka quickly – five times distilled, four times filtered.

The bourbon is distilled using wood chips. “Instead of putting the bourbon into oak barrels, we put the oak barrels into the bourbon,” Schurman said. The process keeps the quality high but the price low.

The Dire Wolf Bourbon is distilled with a slightly different process and is designed to fill a price niche. “We noticed that there are a few (bourbons) on the shelf that are 14 or 15 dollars and a hell of a lot that are 24 or 25 dollars. Ours is going to be $19.99,” Hill said.

Dire Wolf can be found in restaurants throughout Albuquerque. For more information, visit the website at www.aztecspirits.com.

Icon Cinema

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The family owned-operated Icon Theater at Four Hills Village on Central and Tramway has premiered its new Iconic Mega Screen. The 65-foot by 28-foot screen is 50 percent larger than the other 10 screens at the theater. (Jessica Dyer/Albuquerque Journal)

This screen is huge! Icon Cinema, a family owned/operated movieplex at Four Hills Village on Central and Tramway has opened its new Iconic Mega Screen.

The screen, which measures 65 feet by 28 feet, is 50 percent larger than the other 10 screens at the theater. “It’s sort of our own brand of IMAX. Not using IMAX, we get to pick our own price,” owner/operator Samson Snell told the Journal. “We want to make more of a family-friendly thing.”

Icon, started in Roswell by Julie and Sam Snell, came to Albuquerque in 2015. Julie and Sam are still very much involved in the theater, Samson said. Julie operates the theater. Sam designs everything. Samson, along with brother Stetson, takes care of the day-to-day operations.

“Technically, I’m the owner/operator,” Samson said. “But really, I just do what the boss lady, my mother, the boss lady says. That’s my job.”

Icon has a number of features that “create the best possible experience for the customers to just enjoy the picture,” Samson said. The theater includes luxury assigned seating, electric recliners with a wide range of mobility, an ice cream counter, and perhaps its most unique feature, self-service popcorn and drinks that give customers the opportunity to add as much or as little butter to their popcorn as they wish and free refills.

There is a risk to the vision that Icon Cinema has brought. Samson said, “We needed more seats. When you have those recliners, you lose half your seating.”

The need to expand seating led to the construction of an additional screen, which led to the idea for the Iconic Mega Screen.

Icon also has a theater in San Angelo, Texas, and Samson said Icon is expanding into Colorado Springs, where it plans to build a 90-foot screen that he says will be the largest reclining-seat auditorium in the nation.

If you have retail news to share, contact me at thood@abqjournal.com or 823-3864. For more regular updates on Albuquerque shopping and restaurant news, visit my blog at abqjournal.com or follow @hood_abqjournal on Twitter.

 

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