by Sabine Rhyne
Theresa Darling knows a thing or two about comfort food. And there’s no time like February for comfort food! In the Brattleboro Food Co-op frozen food section, you will find TC’s Pantry products: Vegetable Pot Pie, Macaroni and Cheese, and Lasagna.
Theresa’s business is a quintessentially small family business. She began eight years ago making pies for her sister, then began making pies at the South Acworth Village Store. Gradually, she expanded to other baked meals as well. “For three years, I cooked every Friday night!” she said. Along the way Theresa got to know the folks at Hannah Grimes, a small business incubator located in Keene, NH. This support proved to be the catalyst for her early entrepreneurial success, as she benefited from workshops, training, and a multitude of resources that they offer to small businesses to get them off the ground. These resources range from bookkeeping to graphics to packaging sources, the kind of supportive help that often makes things possible. Recently, they assisted Theresa with obtaining a KivaZip Loan, the first small business interest-free micro-loan awarded in New Hampshire. Now, Theresa rents time in the Neighbor Made commercial kitchen facility in Keene, and makes runs of her three products, with the assistance of her husband and son.
Her products are truly homemade. “I use Cabot butter and King Arthur flour in the crust, I hand crimp every pie, and I use only fresh vegetables, never frozen,” Theresa explains. For the mac-and-cheese, she only uses three varieties of Cabot cheese. As things picked up, she began growing her own herbs, and raised her own chickens for the GMO-free eggs. “Oh, and I make my own stock, vegetable and chicken,” she adds. Her sauces are homemade, from a family recipe, and the crust is her mom’s recipe (her mom is an award-winning apple pie baker). So, this is true comfort food, made exactly the way you might, if you took the time to do all of that!
And just think, her most requested item is yet to come. When Theresa first started her outreach, the chicken pot pies were the most requested product. But she discovered the need for a USDA-inspected meat processing facility, a requirement for any product containing meat. So, she put that aside and kept her other three products coming while she figured out where to make her meat pies. Beginning this year, she will be traveling up to Waitsfield, VT, to the Mad River Food Hub to rent space to make her chicken pot pies. There are apparently several retails waiting for this new product to introduce TC’s Pantry to their freezer set. At the Brattleboro Food Co-op, you will see those pies join the Vegetable Pot Pies as soon as they are available.
The path to successful entrepreneurship is a tough one, and small business incubators such as BDCC and Hannah Grimes are often critical to their success. There is an extra level of complexity when those products require a USDA-inspected facility, as Theresa discovered. In a scan of the region, very few facilities exist: none in New Hampshire, and only one in Vermont, You’ll find Theresa and her husband at the commercial kitchen on Saturday, cranking out pies and meals, while her son washes the dishes. Or maybe just find the fruits of her labors in the frozen aisle. Join us on Thursday, February 12, from 11am to 1:30pm, and taste for yourself!
Join us on Thursday, February 12, from 11am-1:30pm, meet Theresa from TC's Pantry and taste some of her delicious comfort foods!