Now that Maine Pie Line has been sold to Two Fat Cats Bakery and is officially moved out of its home at 200 Anderson Street, something called Kids Gone Raw is moving in. The healthy-snack company is run by Elizabeth Fraser, whose business Girl Gone Raw inspired the kid-focused off-shoot, and Maggie Knowles.
They took a quick break from unpacking boxes to explain how a cookbook plan jumpstarted the business idea, how they try to make health food attractive to kids, and how the new space will help them grow the company.
Is Kids Gone Raw separate from Girl Gone Raw?
Fraser: It is. For Girl Gone Raw, I teach raw, vegan classes in my studio up on Munjoy Hill. Gourmet eating extravagances that are just really simple, wholesome food. That's how I met Maggie. You tell the story!
Knowles: I was a writer at the time, contributing editor for Port City Life Magazine and writing for the Phoenix. When we met, we wanted to write a cookbook together about taking kids' junk food and making it as good as she makes everything else. So we spent a lot of time writing the book proposal.
The publisher's like, "This is a great idea, but who are you guys? You don't have a following. We want to know there's going to be a line at the bookstore to buy your stuff." So we said, alright, what are we going to do? Let's make snacks! Then we'll get our book published. And it has just exploded into this huge, fabulous business.
When was that?
Knowles: Two and a half years ago.
You haven't had a retail space before, right?
Fraser: My partner and I own a duplex up on the hill, so we live on one side and we were using the other kitchen space as our work kitchen. We sell the snacks at around 20 stores, natural food stores in Maine, New Hampshire....
Knowles: We also have a pretty good online business, we send a lot of stuff to the west coast and down to Florida.
Fraser: We have an Etsy store and a Square store on our website, too. This morning we sent snacks to New Jersey and Florida.
It's all raw and vegan stuff?
Fraser: Raw, vegan, organic, and gluten-free.
Knowles: Our kale's sourced locally for the most part, from a farm out in Buxton. Our mission was to take kids' snacks and create healthier versions of them. There is a social pressure aspect: Kids at school want to be eating what it looks like everyone else is eating. So we wanted to keep that.
Fraser: We have five flavors of kale chips, three flavors of granola, three flavors of fruit roll-ups, we have a chocolate bar, cookies, crackers....
So with all of them, to some degree, you're looking at what other kids might have in their lunch boxes at school and trying to replicate but elevate that?
Fraser: Right, yes.
Knowles: We have "Dorito" cheese-its, these are banana-chocolate cookies, we have a delicious trail mix.
Fraser: What's special about the trail mix is it's got sun-dried bananas in it, they taste just like banana bread, it's so good.
What brought you down to this space?
Fraser: We've been eyeing this space since we discovered it, like, wouldn't it be cool to be down there. A friend of ours said, "Hey, do you know Maine Pie Line's moving out?" That's when we sent an email, and here we are. It was too good to pass up. We're at the point where we really are growing and trying to take it to the next level, so this will help us do that.
Knowles: We're getting ready to re-do all of our packaging. We've been printing these at home, but we hired a graphic designer so we're going to do fancy labels that wrap around, have nutritional info and UPC codes so we can get into bigger stores like Whole Foods. That was a big part of our plan. We already have one book, a smoothie book with 120 amazing recipes, which has done really well and is already in its second printing. Hopefully this will give us more time and space to do product testing for the big cookbook.
Will you have a retail space down here?
Fraser: Yes. People can pop in.
You obviously don't need most of the equipment that was here previously, like ovens, so what equipment do you use primarily?
Fraser: We've got dehydrators, black boxes with trays and a fan that blows warm air at 115 degrees Fahrenheit, just sucks the moisture out of the food. That's a big part of it. Then we've got blenders, food processors, chocolate tempering machine....
Knowles: Our favorite thing! In our old space we were limited to just dehydrated things. Now we can expand. We did the Chocolate Lovers' Fling the past two years, the first ever vegan entrants. Last year we won Best Brownie, which is pretty amazing for a raw item. It's delicious, and now we'll be able to sell them out of this space as well, which we couldn't do before. We'll have a lot more flexibility here to increase our product line.
And you have some employees?
Knowles: Yes, we have three. They're great. Katie went to vegan cooking school in Austin, Paige worked for Modern Vegan for a year, Jeanette used to own Roost House of Juice and also works at Whole Foods.
What's the timeline for setting up this space?
Knowles: Hopefully by Thursday.
Fraser: We should be producing food this week.
So you'll be ready in time for the winter farmers' market?
Fraser: The Urban Farm Fermentory will have some of our stuff for sale in their tasting room, but we won't be participating in the farmers' market because of the way the rules work.
Didn't Maine Pie Line stay open, though, since they were a separate business?
Fraser: It's complicated but we don't fall under that same scenario because we don't rent the space exclusively. Part of our agreement was that we would not have the space on Saturdays, so that's why we won't have our own table at the farmers' market. Three farmers will be in that space.
Knowles: Lauren [Pignatello, of Swallowtail Farm, which also has a storefront in the building]'s ultimate vision is maybe having a different model where vendors like us could sell their stuff too.
We're really happy to be down here.