Simply Southern Sides of Macedonia heats up with boil
Back to Main MenuCelebrationsFraud PreventionManage Your AdPlace red bottoms an AdClaude Kennard, Special to The Plain DealerSimply Southern Sides, marketed by a Macedonia company, are available it the refrigerated section of Dave’s supermarkets.MACEDONIA, Ohio Nestled among packages of Bob Evans, Tyson and Jack Daniels refrigerated side dishes, you might find a new one from a Northeast Ohio company.The package says “Simply Southern Sides,” and the food is what you would expect: black eyed peas, turnip greens, creamed corn.Food from the Macedonia company hit the shelves in this market at Dave’s supermarkets for the first time in August, three months before Thanksgiving. But the growing packaged food business started capturing the interest of retailers like Kmart and Kroger three years ago, soon after it launched.Co owners Claude and Crystal Booker built a nearly $4 million packaged foods business from their Northfield Center Township home, by marketing to large food service channels like grocery chains, universities and military bases that buy the boil in a bag products in volume for hot foods and deli counters.In March, the lean, three employee business moved into an 11,000 square foot building, with hopes of expanding further by trying to get local retailers and consumers to give the food a taste.The first account Claude landed in 2007 was Super Kmart. But except for small independent grocery stores, also affiliated with I K distributors, no other company would listen to a formal presentation for nearly a year. Company sales that first year were just $75,000.”We thought we had arrived with our first big account,” said Booker, 42, president of Simply Southern Sides. “But nobody in this area would take us on after that. I knew I had to do something.”My dad was a great novice cook. He’d spend hours prepping, cutting and chopping and baking,” Booker said. “He wanted to be a chef, but he never got the opportunity.”Booker didn’t become a chef, but he got three food service and management degrees. Foodservice and Sysco Corp. Twice he took breaks from his corporate career to give entrepreneurship a try. Both times he chose after three years to close businesses he started.View full sizePeggy Turbett, The Plain DealerClaude Booker launched Simply Southern Sides from home three years ago at the start of a crumbling economic landscape.Even when businesses close, though, good business relationships often continue. Brad Meadows, the owner of a boil in a bag packaging manufacturer in Columbus, Ga., used to supply products for “The Wang King,” Booker’s former fast food chicken resta red bottoms urant in Randall Park Mall that closed in 2004. Four years ago, after Booker returned to corporate America, Meadows persuaded him to launch Simply Southern Sides.It wasn’t an easy sell for Booker, mainly because he knew his wife didn’t want to hear about another one of his entrepreneurial ideas. But he also hadn’t quite gotten over his failed dream of running a national chain of chicken wing restaurants with southern cuisine side dishes.”I wanted to be the king of chicken The Wang King,” Booker said. “But the side dis red bottoms hes is what really took off. Where else could people find 16 southern side dishes of comfort food, like okra and tomatoes, collard greens and creamed corn?”Meadows never forgot the stories Booker shared about his customers’ love for side red bottoms dishes prepared by fast food employees that simply dropped bags into boiling water. But the plant manufacturer said he didn’t give Booker the idea just to be nice. He wanted to expand his own business and was tired of the limited success he found by working with multiple brokers and salespeople.If Booker launched his own company, “he’d have skin in the game,” Meadows said. The only investment Meadows would make would be mentoring, helping to identify potential customers that distribute to multiple chains.