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Written by Jeremy Nulik

It’s Oct. 1, 2006, and Rick Schaper is in his Dogtown bungalow putting the last pieces of plastic wrap on one of the 100 pizzas he has spent the last 24 hours assembling. With the Cardinals’ playoff game on in the background, he begins to greet his houseguests – family, neighborhood friends and people he has known his whole life since growing up in the nearby St. James the Greater parish.

housing market collapsed, however, he decided it was time to return to his first love. “Then I paid for the ingredients and labels to fill those orders by maxing out some credit cards and made 300 pizzas. To this day, we have never borrowed money and have built the business off cash flow and sales.”

“I sold all 100 pizzas that day and got 40 more orders,” says Schaper, who had taken a break from the restaurant biz to work as a car salesman and home remodeler. After the

This was how he and his wife, Meredith, started Dogtown Pizza, a frozen-pizza company that now supplies area Schnucks, Dierbergs and Straub’s grocery stores. Sure, it may sound like

an unlikely beginning, but South Side grit and lofty entrepreneurial vision have proved to be successful antidotes to failure. However, if you ask Schaper what has led to his success, he would add one more crucial element: incubation. It’s an element he shares with a growing number of innovative food businesses. Through incubation, entreprenuers keep costs low and open themselves to mentorship opportunities, which helps businesses develop strong roots and grow organically.

Andy Ayers

LOCAL SNACKING As if St. Louis didn’t already have an abundance of great eateries, food trucks, watering holes, bakeries and confectionaries to choose from, our scene is also endowed with a great number of talented food producers who ensure you don’t have to leave your couch to devour local foods. You can find bags of Billy Goat Chips and Whataya Nuts nut clusters in a number of grocery stores and delis throughout the area, as well as chocolate-covered pretzels and snack mixes from Mom’s Originals at specialty shops. Dips range from the creamy Ah!Zeefa black lentil dips to savory cheese spreads such as Charlie’s Beer Cheese or the goods from River City Savories, sold at neighborhood markets. Whether you want an interesting item to feature on your next party tray or simply need to satisfy a craving for something crunchy, look no further than local.

The name of his business says it all: Eat Here, St. Louis! Andy Ayers has been deep in the local restaurant scene for decades, and the now-shuttered Riddle’s Penultimate was one of the first restaurants to spotlight locally grown products. After a 28-year run in a restaurant kitchen, Ayers got out from behind the stove and launched Eat Here, a wholesale company that sources local foods for local chefs. Ayers is not only making it easier for chefs to cook with and serve local food but he’s also giving our region’s farmers a much-needed source of steady sales. Because of Eat Here, chefs don’t have to hunt around farmer by farmer for products and farmers don’t have to go door to door selling what they’ve produced. At his St. Louis warehouse, Ayers accepts deliveries and then sends his delivery guys out to drop off boxes of just-picked produce. He also sources local dairy products, rice, maple syrup and more. Sometimes Ayers isn’t able to give a chef exactly what he wants − if the Brussels sprouts aren’t ready for harvest, they’re not available. Chefs are flexible when they’re dedicated to sourcing their ingredients locally and ensuring that their customers “eat here.”

Third Wave Coffee Coffee should be sourced, roasted, brewed and savored as an artisanal product and understood for its nuance, like wine. So says Third Wave Coffee, a movement focused on crafting your cup to best express the body, flavor and style each bean produces. America’s First Wave brought coffee brands like Folgers to supermarket shelves. The Second Wave saw companies like Starbucks democratize and popularize espresso-based drinks, like the latte. Now the Third Wave is zeroing in on brewing methods − pour-over, French press, cold-brewed, Beehouse − and single-origin beans with the aim of treating coffee with culinary-level respect. Locally, Kaldi’s leads the educational pack, offering free weekly cuppings at its South City roasting facility. Coffee lovers should also seek out newcomers Sump, Comet Coffee and VanBuskirk Artisanal Chocolate Bar for a brewed-to-order, technique-driven cup o’ joe.

January 2013 Feast Magazine  

FEAST Magazine delves into St. Louis' culinary scene for inspired ideas in cooking, the latest on restaurants, great gadgets, kitchen design...

January 2013 Feast Magazine  

FEAST Magazine delves into St. Louis' culinary scene for inspired ideas in cooking, the latest on restaurants, great gadgets, kitchen design...