Jesse Stubbs Interview Marketing Director at Pappardelle’s

Their pasta products including pasta sauce can now be found in over 250 Farmers markets, Street Fairs and Specialty Gourmet Food Stores.
In 2011, Whole Foods Rocky Mountain Region invited them to be their primary fresh pasta purveyor and allowed them to introduce their gluten-free pasta in over 30 stores.

The following year, 2012, King Soopers (Kroger) Rocky Mountains Region invited their gluten-free pasta into over 50 stores.

The company we are talking about is Poppardelle’s and the person we’re talking to about the company is Jesse Stubbs.

Q – Jesse, what is your position at Pappardelle’s?
A – I am the Director of Marketing and Sales.

Q – What does the name Pappardelle’s mean? Is that a made up name?
A – There’s a bit of a story behind the name Pappardelle’s. When the company was founded, the name of the company was actually Pastabilities. It wasn’t until the company began to grow and expand outside of Colorado that the name changed. As the story goes, David (Bowen) and Bill Curtis (Pappardelle’s founders) received a cease-and-desist order from a lawyer in New York. The law firm represented another company that was using the name Pastabilitie’s . As such, David and Bill set out to find another name, hoping to find something that would be similar in style and in length. It had to fit into the marketing materials they had developed. The name came about when Bill who was on a trip to Florida was reading a gourmet magazine and saw Pappardelle’s in print. The name is not totally random. It does have a symbolic pasta meaning. A Pappardelle noodle is a wide flat cut noodle that usually ranges between three quarters to an inch thick. It is traditionally used with a Bolognese style sauce.

Q – Were the founders of the company involved in the food business prior to starting Pappardelle’s.
A – David had a background in food, but, never owned a food business prior to Pappardelle’s. Bill was not in the food industry prior to Pappardelle’s.

Q – Pappardelle’s has a unique approach to getting their product out in front of people. You don’t approach chain supermarkets. You sell at Farmers markets instead. Just how profitable is that business plan?
A – We actually sell our products to traditional retail stores, for example Whole Foods Markets, Rocky Mountains region, at Farmers markets, and niche independent gourmet shops and two restaurants and resorts around the country. We have focused our attention on venues like Farmers markets because it allows us to more intimately connect with our customers. We want them to understand our unique creation process and also be able to share some fun serving suggestions and recipes. Because we are a privately held company we do not disclose sales figures, but, what I will say is we have built a nice business directly connecting and selling to our customers at Farmers markets across the country.

Q – You don’t advertise, but, what if you did? Would that in some way harm the reputation of the company?
A – We have grown purely by word-of-mouth. Our customers sharing us with their friends and family has allowed us to experience double-digit growth year after year. We are certainly not opposed to traditional advertising and may explore it more seriously someday. I don’t believe it would have any adverse effect on our reputation.

Q – In August 1993 the Pope tried your pasta when he was in Denver. Did you ever find out what he thought about it?
A – Unfortunately, no. We certainly would have loved to get that feedback!

Q – Starting in 2004, the company decided to add 4 to 6 new items each year to the product line. Have you been able to do that?
A – Across all of our sales venues we typically develop 10 to 15 new products every year. A handful of those products are developed in collaboration with chefs or other local manufacturers. Not all of these products go “mainstream”, but we are constantly innovating in doing R and D (research and development)

Q – Is it hard to find workers to come in and learn the process of making your type of pasta? It seems so labor-intensive that it would take a special type of person to do it?
A – Our production team members go through at least a year of training before they are allowed to make product on their own. It is a very labor and knowledge intensive job. We are very fortunate to have many members of our team that have been with us 10+ years, some close to 20 years. We are very selective about new team members as we invest a lot in them and them in us.

Q – Where are the founders of the company today? What are they doing and why did they leave?
A – After 18 years of being at the helm they decided and Papardelle’s was ready for a change and something new. As such, they sold the company to the current owners, Jim and Paula Steinberg. Jim always describes David and Bill as the first runners of a four lap relay. He is the second button holder and can’t yet see the third runner. He wants the hundred year legacy for Papardelle’s.

Q – How much growth is there in the pasta business?
A – We believe we have only brushed the surface of our potential. There are many markets that we have not expanded into and as long as consumers continue to enjoy high-quality nutritious food we will continue to have growth opportunities.

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