Julie Gaines and Dana Noorily exude the confidence and buoyancy of two 30 something’s on the rise. It is the vibe of energetic women having a good time together. They finished each other’s sentences, pausing just long enough to catch their breath as they shared their story of creating o.a.t.s. with me.
Julie was mixing up batches of this scrumptious granola in her own kitchen just a little over a year ago. She gave it as gifts to neighbors, teachers and friends . Her friends loved the product and requests for more starting rolling in.
One day, Julie pulled a mason jar filled with granola mix out of her daughter’s stroller pocket at ballet class pick up. She gave it to her gal-pal Dana, who was also retrieving her young ballerina.
Dana flipped when she tasted it.
Soon after, Julie was shopping at Double L Market in Westport, CT. and gave owner, Lloyd Allen a taste. Lloyd has been supportive of local growers and producers for more than 25 years.
He sources and sells veggies and fruit from local farms and orchards. He also sells locally produced small products (jams, sauces, condiments,syrup), local cheeses and baked items.
Lloyd knows good stuff when he tastes it.
He asked Julie what the granola was called, the price, and how many cases could be delivered. And of course, he wanted to know how soon?!
One month later o.a.t.s. had a moniker, and Julie and Dana were mixing batches by hand at home. They sold 400 jars to friends for holiday gifts that December.
In January 2011, they began baking in a commercial kitchen in Mamaroneck, NY. They were able to supply Lloyd’s Double L Market with a regular delivery. Only Julie and Dana mixed up the batches then, although periodically they received a little much needed help from friends and family.
One year later, their o.a.t.s. granola is sold in over a dozen locations, ranging from local, smaller markets and all four Whole Foods Markets in Fairfield County.
Stew Leonard’s took them on despite there being other granola products on their shelves. When Julie and Dana share samples with shoppers, shoppers taste it, love it and buy.
The ingredients remain the same as the original product from Julie’s kitchen just over a year ago.
Flavors are original and dark chocolate.
The packaging is simple.
Generous chunks of chocolate are visible in the resealable bags, along with an abundance of nuts. Mason jars were impractical for packing and shipping but are still available on their website. The jars give the product an upscale, more gift-able feel.
Rolled oats, slivered almonds, walnuts, pecans and a fragrant spice mixture combine to make this delicious granola. There are nuts in every bite, making the taste experience crunchy and complex.
The dark chocolate bites come from Guittard Chocolate Company in California. They are the oldest family owned and operated premium chocolate company in the U.S.A.
There are plenty of rich chocolate morsels in each batch of o.a.t.s., making this a great choice for topping ice cream, yogurt, or eating by the spoons full.
The nuts are twice baked and coated with honey before being tossed with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and a barely discernible bit of decaf coffee. o.a.t.s has a warm, pleasing hue, hinting at the toasting process and the delightful combo of spices. Open a bag and the fragrance of home baking rushes up to the nostrils to tease and beckon.
What’s next in the product line?
They are considering a nut free granola in snack size bags, great for school kids and adults alike.
It struck me that these two ambitious ladies looked like opposites . I wondered if their talents and strengths are similar or complimentary.
Julie recalls that she never wanted to be a solo business owner. She comes from a marketing background in the music industry where she saw the benefits of collaboration. “I knew that Dana had a strong financial side and is super organized with a great memory for details and numbers.”
Dana said, “Julie articulates our ideas and passion well, using humor along the way. Neither one of us wanted to work with our best friends but now WE are best friends in addition to business partners.”
Between them, they have five kids under the age of seven. They must be resourceful, creative, and focused on their delicious product and expanding markets. I have no doubt that they will continue to succeed
Note: o.a.t.s. has recently received its kosher dairy certification of Pas Yisroel. The granola continues to be hand mixed in a commercial baking kitchen in NJ.