White Rose Ventures funds soft pretzel maker and snowboard/ski manufacturer

Martin Fedorko, founder of White Rose Ventures. PHOTO PROVIDED

York-based White Rose Ventures announced that it invested $750,000 in two more businesses – one that makes soft pretzels and another that manufactures snowboards and skis – in the third quarter of 2022.

This expands the portfolio of the venture fund, founded in 2020, to nine Pennsylvania companies with a total investment of $3.93 million.

The Pretzel Co., formerly York City Pretzel Co., is a soft pretzel wholesaler and distributor that received $250,000 from White Rose.

“With customers all across the country,” a White Rose update said, The Pretzel Co. is “quickly becoming one of the top pretzel wholesalers” in the U.S.

The reason for the investment “starts with their story,” said White Rose managing partner Martin Fedorko.

The Pretzel Co. never intended to be an e-commerce pretzel company, he said, but COVID-19 caused a shift away from retail.

“At our peak in 2019, we were serving just over a hundred bars and restaurants throughout central Pennsylvania,” co-founder Philip Given said in the White Rose update.

“When it became clear that ‘normal’ operations were not returning to the food service industry in a way that would make our previous business model sustainable, we completely retooled our bakery and invested in technology partners, equipment and marketing to support our transition to becoming a fully digital business.”

Fedorko credited “extreme resilience” in taking advantage of this huge e-commerce opportunity.

Now The Pretzel Co. has a relationship with QVC shopping network, which is a great revenue generator, he said.

White Rose Ventures’ investment in the soft pretzel maker is to “help participate in the growth of their business,” Fedorko said. “We’re thrilled about it.”

The second company now being funded is Gilson Snow, a snowboard and ski manufacturer from Winfield, Union County, that was given $500,000.

Typically, White Rose invests in southeastern Pennsylvania businesses, he said, but was so impressed by Gilson, the largest producer of custom snowboards and skis in the country.

The manufacturer uses sustainably harvested state poplar, Fedorko said. “It’s such a great story for Pennsylvania” with everything being locally sourced.

On its website, Gilson describes its products as “100% designed and built in the Appalachian foothills, ridden and loved by riders in over 40 countries.”

“We are incredibly inspired by their journey thus far, and look forward to stewarding the growth of the company for years to come,” the White Rose update said.

Fedorko said the venture fund is very enamored of the company’s founder, Nick Gilson, and his team at Gilson Snow.

White Rose’s goal, he said, is a portfolio of 20 to 25 companies.

In addition to The Pretzel Co. and Gilson Snow, the other seven businesses in the portfolio so far are CyberconIQ, $1.03 million; Reflexion, $500,000; Naqi Logix, $200,000; Pledgelt, $200,000; Evermind, $250,000; ReturnLogic, $750,000; and TEAMology, $250,000.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Women business owners invited to seek Bloom Grants

The Bloom Business Empowerment Center, through the York County Economic Alliance, is partnering with the Women’s Business Center Organization on the latest Bloom Grants.

The program invites small businesses with majority women ownership (51% or more) to apply for grants from $500 to $1,500 for projects that improve productivity, expand business services, or help the business grow to the next level. Examples of projects funded through other Bloom grants have included upgraded signage, physical improvements to business location and purchase of new equipment.

Priority consideration will be given to:

· Businesses that have not received funding from previous Bloom grant programs

· Black, Indigenous and people of color-owned businesses

· Veteran-owned businesses The application process is open through 8 p.m. Nov. 30.

The Bloom Grant Program was created in 2018. Since its launch, 141 grants totaling $351,978 have been distributed to small businesses/organizations throughout York County, with 50% going to businesses owned by persons of color and 65% going to women-owned businesses. Applicant finalists will be required to participate in a pitch competition during the Women’s Business Center Organization luncheon Dec. 13.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Miesse Candies opens a new chapter with new owner

Ingrid Natale, who re-established the Pensupreme Ice Cream brand, bought Miesse Candies from Tracy Artus, who owned and operated Miesse since 2010. PHOTO/PROVIDED
Ingrid Natale, who re-established the Pensupreme Ice Cream brand, bought Miesse Candies from Tracy Artus, who owned and operated Miesse since 2010. PHOTO/PROVIDED

Iconic Lancaster confectioner Miesse Candies, which traces its roots to the 19th century, is under new ownership.

Ingrid Natale, who re-established the Pensupreme Ice Cream brand, bought the 147-year-old business from Tracy Artus, who owned and operated Miesse since 2010.

The candymaker occupies a 5,000-square-foot space on the first floor of the Steeple Lofts building at 118 N. Water St. in Lancaster city, which houses its factory and a retail store.

More details of the transaction weren’t disclosed, such as price, but it includes the business, name, inventory, recipes and equipment as well as the lease for Miesse Candies’ stand at Lancaster Central Market.

Not including seasonal products, Miesse makes about 150 different types of candies, including sea salt and regular caramels, peanut butter meltaways, vanilla butter creams, chocolate bark, nut clusters and molded candies.

In a phone interview, Natale said she and Argus love that this is deal involves one woman business owner selling to another. “We’re extremely proud of that.”

She described Miesse Candies as a “really amazing blend” of an authentically historical business with extremely high-quality products.

A lot of the company’s sales are from the market stand, Natale said, but there are also many loyal customers who come into the North Water Street shop.

Miesse Candies also boasts an “incredible” custom chocolate business for weddings, hotels and other events/clients, she said. An example would be chocolate keys for real estate agents to present to new homeowners.

“We use all natural ingredients, such as pure vanilla, local butter and fresh cream,” according to Miesse’s website. “Our rich chocolate is made with real cocoa butter, and all of our fruits and nuts are hand-dipped the old-fashioned way.”

Natale said Miesse just launched a new website adding its seasonal items and wants to focus on getting its social media presence – including Facebook and Instagram – up to date.

The seasonal products feature fun offerings, she said, such as nonpareils with autumn colors; dark chocolate turkeys; and milk chocolate jack-o’-lanterns.

There are sports-themed confections, too: chocolate footballs from 1 inch up to regular pigskin size and even miniature chocolate baseballs, mitts and bats.

And there are “big, show-stopping pieces,” Natale said, including chocolate holiday trees covered with white nonpareils that resemble snow.

“If you need something really exciting for the table” during family gatherings, that will do the trick, she said.

Natale said she’s also excited about getting special molds to expand the part of the business that markets custom candy.

Plus, there are always product questions to decide, she said, such as whether to add extra salted caramels.

A Lancaster institution

Before purchasing Miesse, Natale revived Pensupreme Ice Cream, which has been available since January at a soda fountain in the North Water Street store.

Miesse Candies began in 1875, when Daniel W. Miesse opened a shop in the first block of North Queen Street in downtown Lancaster, where he sold hard candies, ice cream and baked goods.

His son, Roy, went to France after World War I to learn how to make chocolate, where he developed the candy recipes still employed today.

From 1882 to 1942, Miesse Candies was located at 123 N. Queen St. It was then sold to a candy company in York and moved there. In 1947, Roy Miesse Sr. and Roy Miesse Jr., son and grandson of the founder, started their own chocolate candymaking business in York.

They added a Lancaster factory in 1956 by acquiring the Helm Candy plant at 735 Lafayette St. in the Cabbage Hill neighborhood, and eventually closed the York plant.

After several ownership changes, a 2006 fire swept through the Miesse factory, causing so much damage that production had to stop for about a year.

Tracy Artus started as a part-time clerk before buying Miesse Candies in 2010; she moved the business to North Water Street in 2013.

A few years ago, Artus turned part of a retail area at the factory into an ice cream parlor by installing a 1,000-pound vintage soda fountain that had been at Minnich’s Pharmacy in York.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Entrepreneurs in Food & Beverage TechCelerator can win up to $30,000

Food and beverage entrepreneurs and start-up companies have the chance to win up to $30,000 in Ben Franklin Technology Partners’ first Food & Beverage TechCelerator.

The TechCelerator is open to those in Ben Franklin’s 32-county Pennsylvania footprint who are “developing scalable, innovative and technology-focused products/services in the food and beverage industry,” a release explained.

Ben Franklin Technology Partners’ Julie Bratton said there have been previous TechCelerators but this is the first time the concept is targeted to a specific industry.

The 10-week virtual business boot camp provides an opportunity for enrollees to build and de-risk their business model, culminating in a pitch competition with a chance to win up to 30 grand.

More specifically, Food & Beverage TechCelerator participants explore the likelihood of success and learn to minimize risks; take part in one-on-one mentoring with business coaches from Ben Franklin and college Small Business Development Centers; expand their network and engage with other entrepreneurs; and create an investor pitch to present to a panel of local judges.

The weekly Zoom classes are Tuesdays, starting Jan. 10, 2023, and running through March 14, 2023. One-hour online mentoring/coaching sessions will also be provided each week. Deadline to apply is Dec. 2.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Oola Bowls moves into franchising, accelerating growth

Joe Ferderbar said he and his friend/associate Brock Snider had been thinking of starting a business together when they tried an acai berry-based smoothie bowl that blew them away.

The experience was remarkable, he said.

Excited for the possibilities, Ferderbar and Snider – who also own a Signarama franchise – launched Oola Bowls with a trailer-turned food truck and then progressed to a stand at Lancaster Central Market in 2018, with more locations to follow.

“We felt Lancaster was willing to try new things,” said Ferderbar, who called the food truck “a very low risk” way to start the enterprise. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he and Snider delivered oola bowls to health care workers and others to say thank you.

It’s hard to describe what an oola bowl is, “but everybody seems to love it,” Ferderbar said.

They’re made from acai berries – considered a superfood because they’re nutrient-dense and loaded with antioxidents – or pitaya blended into a pulp and topped with fresh fruit, peanut butter and homemade granola.

Now the partners are taking their company to the next level by franchising, with three additional Oola Bowls on the horizon and more expected in the next few years.

Oola Bowl’s menu features smoothies, snacks, and bulk foods such as organic acai and pitaya, coconut, granola and peanut butter, as well as the aforementioned acai and pitaya bowls.

Along with the food truck and Central Market stand, Oola Bowls owns five other locations: two in Hersheypark; one each in Lititz’s Market at The Wilbur and in Reading’s Fairgrounds Farmers Market; and a Manheim Township café at 1963 Fruitville Pike in Foxshire Plaza with a drive-thru and small seating area.

The Fruitville Pike storefront, which opened in May 2021, is where prep work is done for the other sites, Ferderbar said.

And that’s the model Oola Bowls is pushing for the franchises, he said.

Three agreements have been signed so far. One franchise is set to open at 3455 Old Philadelphia Pike in Intercourse, next to Kitchen Kettle Village, in early November.

A second, in North Cornwall Commons shopping center across from the Lebanon Valley Exposition Center south of Lebanon city, will soon break ground. Ferderbar said he hopes that 2,200-square-foot location, similar to the Fruitville café, will open next spring.

The third, in Camp Hill, is still in search of a site.

Ferderbar estimated the total cost to open a franchise starts at $250,000, which includes construction costs and a $30,000 franchise fee.

Beyond this first group of three, he said, as Oola Bowls develops a distribution network to support them, the company looks forward to further franchise expansion.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Denim Coffee opening shop at Dickinson College

Chambersburg-based Denim Coffee will open its fourth coffee shop – and first on a college campus – Oct. 28.

The specialty coffee roaster’s newest location is inside the Quarry space at Dickinson College. Denim Coffee’s other shops are in downtown Chambersburg, downtown Harrisburg and downtown Carlisle.

Centrally located on the Dickinson campus and remodeled by Denim Coffee, the space had been a cafe before shutting down during the pandemic. The menu will feature coffee, espresso, smoothies, locally brewed UnDone kombucha, fresh baked goods and breakfast sandwiches.

“Creating a high-end coffee experience on a college campus has been a dream of mine ever since working the coffee bar at my alma mater, Shippensburg University,” Matt Ramsay, owner and founder of Denim Coffee, said in a release.

“College students deserve a moment of beauty in their busy lives. The challenge for us at the Dickinson location is managing between-class rushes without compromising quality. The bar was designed to prioritize quality first, but speed of service has been kept a very close second priority. We’re going to find out how well we did very soon.”

Dickinson President John E. Jones III added: “We are absolutely thrilled to welcome Denim Coffee to campus at the Quarry. Students, faculty and staff have been eagerly anticipating the opening of this unique coffee shop, and we are looking forward to Denim becoming a part of campus life.”

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer