Food & Drink

Preservation & Co. incubates Sacramento boutique food businesses

The showroom at the Preservation & Co.
The showroom at the Preservation & Co. pkitagaki@sacbee.com

Past a metal roll-up door on an industrial stretch of 19th Street, racks of jars await the pickling process, and dreams of business success simmer like the marmalade on a stove. The setting is a former auto shop, cold concrete floors and all, which has been transformed into Preservation & Co., a no-frills hub for Sacramento’s upstart food and beverage producers.

Drop by this 4,800-square-foot facility and you’re bound to run into Jason Poole, the 32-year-old owner, who’s otherwise known in Sacramento food circles as “The Brine Boss.” His six-flavor line of pickles will be carried nationally this spring by World Market, an order that requires 22,000 jars and an ocean of brining solution. Preservation & Co.’s award-winning bloody mary mix is already distributed around the country and carried by Whole Foods stores in Northern California. Poole says the company has a goal of generating $1.5 million in revenue this year.

If Poole’s own success could be bottled and preserved, a number of local food producers would want a taste. The home base of Preservation & Co., which boasts commercial kitchen facilities and a 100-gallon kettle among its amenities, is shared by others with goals of national accounts and spiking business growth. Among those incubating their homegrown brands at Preservation & Co.’s production facility: The Good Stuff, which specializes in seasonal preserves; the Burly Beverages line of small-batch sodas, syrups and shrubs; and cold-brew coffees from Brass Clover. Sacramento’s Pop Up Truck also uses the space to prep ingredients for its mobile food service.

More foodstuffs are on the way. Dad’s Kitchen will use Preservation & Co. to produce a line of quinoa patties for regional distribution. Shady Inc., a new business venture by the owners of the Shady Lady Saloon, has secured space to create a cola, tonic water and other cocktail mixers. Poole will serve as its brand manager.

The result is a kind of epicenter for budding local food brands, a community bent on fine-tuning recipes and leaping into the highly competitive food and beverage marketplace. It’s something like the local version of La Cocina in San Francisco, a shared-use “incubator kitchen” for small food businesses.

“This is home,” said Poole, as a batch of his blackberry margarita mix cooked in a kettle. “I love playing with food. That’s the reason we started this, and I like helping the brands that I work with. We need to think not just nationally, but globally.”

The facility opened in August 2014, following a nearly two-year delay. Poole had served as general manager of the nearby Pour House, using its kitchen to pull all-nighters to make Bloody Mary mix and pickled goods. The goal was to open a facility where he could ramp up production, and ultimately get his goods in stores far beyond the 916 area code.

Turning the former Huey’s Automotive into Preservation & Co. took 10 months alone to secure permits and included the need to replace sewer lines to satisfy city codes. Poole, meanwhile raised $35,000 through two Kickstarter campaigns to offset the costs of equipment and construction.

The learning curve was rough. Poole sent jars of bloody mary mix as thank-you gifts to his Kickstart supporters, but 30 percent of his product shattered during the shipping process thanks to his faulty packaging. He now uses boxes with half-inch-thick cardboard.

“I had no clue of what I was getting myself into,” said Poole. “I didn’t know food production. I was just passionate and stubborn as hell.”

Poole shares some of his lessons learned with the others who call Preservation & Co. their production home.

Before setting up at Preservation & Co., Burly Beverages founder Gabriel Aiello started building his brand in his home kitchen. The California Homemade Food Act, which was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2012, allows food entrepreneurs to make products at home and then sell to the public, albeit with a number of provisions. Cottage food operators are capped at $50,000 in annual gross sales, which limits those with dreams of distribution nationally to Whole Foods stores.

Aiello, who also works as a production employee for Poole’s food ventures, has a goal of seeing the likes of Nugget Markets and Raley’s carrying his sodas. For now, he makes his syrups and beverage products about three gallons at a time, an amount that would be tricky within the confines of a home kitchen but easy with Preservation & Co.’s commercial equipment.

Aiello sees Preservation & Co. as a kind of dream factory and rallying spot for those who are passionate about food production. Instead of working in solitude at a rented commercial kitchen, he relishes in the synergy and camaraderie of working side by side with his Preservation & Co. colleagues.

“I wouldn’t be able to do it if I didn’t have access to this place,” Aiello said about building his company. “I learn so much from Jason all the time. He’s been a great coach for me, saying, ‘I did it this way and screwed it up; you shouldn’t do it this way.’ It’s a creative community, for sure, and very supportive.”

Janet McDonald, owner of The Good Stuff, hopes Preservation & Co.’s facilities will help launch her jam company into a full-time venture. She still holds her day job as a restaurant interior designer, and produces her goods about twice a week at Preservation & Co. She crafted about 500 cases of jam in 2015 and feels her traction is growing. McDonald’s company was a winner in the 2016 Good Food Awards for her plum jam.

McDonald has worked out of other commercial kitchens, but finds an extra sense of purpose at Preservation & Co.

“We share in our frustrations – and there’s plenty of those in small-batch production – and our wins,” said McDonald. “Everyone is very encouraging, and we all share information. ‘Where did you get your jars?’ ‘Who’s got good fruit right now?’ It’s lovely.”

Preservation & Co. is full in terms of others who want to rent kitchen space. The rapidly growing Preservation & Co. brand is requiring more use of the facility’s kitchen space and storage, especially as the company lands more national accounts. Poole says production is about to double, and his brand is on track for 250 percent growth compared with 2015. At that rate, Poole envisions the need to open a second production facility.

Poole is also eyeing more opportunities to not just offer space for product development, but to also manage brands like he’s doing with Shady Lady’s upcoming line of bar products.

But for now, thousands of cucumbers await – not to mention gallons of soda syrup, batches of jams and much more made possible through Preservation & Co.

“I really believe that the more people we have doing this around here, the better it is for everyone,” said Poole. “The people are wanting it. They support it and the more we make, the more we can grow all of our companies.”

Chris Macias: 916-321-1253, @chris_macias

Preservation & Co.

What: In addition to shipping and wholesaling to food outlets, Preservation & Co., operates a store open to the public. Among hand-crafted products that can be purchased are pickles, cocktail mixes, salts, sauces, jams, gift packs and baked goods.

Where: 1717 19th St., No. B, Sacramento

Hours: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Thursdays-Fridays, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays

Information: 916-706-1044, www.preservationandco.com

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