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HomeNewsArchivesTHREE CABLE NETWORK 'FOOD FINDS' ARE IN THE V.I.

THREE CABLE NETWORK 'FOOD FINDS' ARE IN THE V.I.

Three Virgin Islands women in the business of making and marketing island taste treats will soon be showing off and talking up their wares on national cable television.
Food Network, also known as FoodTV, is sending a production crew to the territory for a week starting March 2 to tape segments for its program "Food Finds." Those who've been found by the show researchers are Cheryl Miller, owner of Cheryl's Taste of Paradise on St. John; Sandra Marie Davis, owner of Grandma Sandy's Island Cookie Co. in Royal Dane Mall on St. Thomas; and Jacquel Dawson, founder of The Bush Tea Project on St. Thomas.
The half-hour program that will result will be aired toward the end of April, according to "Food Finds" researcher Mathew Allen.
Food Network, begun about 10 years ago and acquired three years ago by the Scripps media organization, has a rapidly growing audience. As of Jan. 15, Allen said, the network was reaching more than 54 million cable subscriber households, up 10.2 million from a year earlier – and up nearly 400,000 from the preceding month alone. Outside the United States, the network programing can be seen in Canada, Australia, Korea, Thailand and the Philippines.
The FoodTV web site generated more than 43 million page views last year, a gain of 133 percent from the prior year, Allen added. The Internet site states that "Food Finds," now in its second season, "tracks down your long-lost favorites" with host Sandra Pinckney visiting "small-town shops, mom-and-pop stores and local vendors that take pride in making specialty foods the old-fashioned way."
The show is based on a book by sisters Allison and Margaret Engel, also called "Food Finds," that was first published in 1984 and has been updated every few years, Allen explained. "The most recent edition came out last year," he said, and it covers "very indigenous kinds of things."
In the search for prospective "Food Finds" participants, Allen said, "I usually contact the Chambers of Commerce in the areas we're looking at, asking if they have any information on companies that do mail-order business – that's the premise of the show. Generally they say they don't, but then the person on the phone will say, 'Well, I know this guy who does barbecue sauce,' and puts me on to him."
Allen said he came up with the three Virgin Islands subjects "just digging, looking around. I use the Internet quite a bit. Plus, I know a couple of people who used to live in the Virgin Islands and I called them up."
A half-hour program consists of three segments, and the shoot for each segment typically takes a full day. The crew traveling to the Virgin Islands asked for extra time, Allen said, "probably to enjoy themselves a little, but also because this one will take longer, especially the bush tea segment, because they have to go to several locations where the teas are grown, as well as to the owner's home."
Almost any company doing mail-order business today has a web presence, Allen noted, and Miller, Davis and Dawson all do.
Cheryl's Taste of Paradise can be found at www.mangomomma.com. The Grandma Sandy's Cookies site is at www.usvi.net/sandys. And the Bush Tea Project page is at www.bushtea.vi/html/shoppe.htm.
As for the "Food Finds" program itself, it can be accessed at www.foodtv.com/tvshows/foodfinds.
Hot items in limited production
Cheryl Miller has been cooking up hot commodities since 1994, working first out of her home, then a commercial kitchen she set up in the St. John Lumber Yard complex in Cruz Bay. Since 1997 she has been able to promote some of her wares as national prize winners at the annual Fiery Food Show competition.
She won first place in the habanero pepper division last year with her Caribbean Sunburn Hotter Sauce; first place for habaneros in 1999 with her Hot Mango Momma Jam, and a second place in 1997 with her Mango Chutney.
When the "Food Finds" people contacted her, Miller said, they had one question that prompted an instant panic attack: "It was, can I produce 4,000 units [jars of sauces, jams, jellies etc.] a week?" That's four times her normal output, but the producers said their show has been known to prompt that kind of mail-order response from viewers.
"I went over my records, and told them I could produce 2,500," she said. "After that, I can't get enough product or enough bottles." To produce a thousand, she said, "I cook for three or four straight days. Somebody on staff does all the labeling. If I were to produce 2,500 units in a week I would be working real hard – and that's just production. I would still need to be mailing it all out."
She said her web site, up for about a year, "was designed the way I thought it should look," but now she has better ideas – including making it possible for customers to order online. "When people have to take down an 800 number, call for information, then print out a form, fill it out and fax it, it takes a month from inquiry to order – if they order," she said.
This is Miller's second invitation to appear on national cable TV. She turned down the first, from the QVC shopping network channel, because it didn't allow for direct sales and could not guarantee when her segment would air. Locally, she has been featured in two recent food show segments aired on Innovative Cable's TV-2.
Miller envisions the "Food Finds" crew taping the cooking, bottling and labeling processes and doing a site shoot at a garden where she buys peppers. "Most of the ingredients I use are local, including the habaneros and the herbs," she said. One problem, she noted, is that "this is not a pepper-producing time of year." (In season, she buys them in bulk and freezes them for later use.)
Hot sauces really are a hot commodity these days, according to Miller. "It's a very competitive business and growing very fast," she said. "I think one of the main reasons is that hot sauces are not just hot any more, they're full of surprising tastes and flavors. And they're good for you; they lower your blood pressure if you can stand the heat." Her product line, all incorporating Caribbean fruits, consists of four items that are hot and nine that are not.
The goods on Granny's goodies
Sandra Marie Davis started Grandma Sandy's Island Cookie Co. in November 1999 with both the kitchen and the retail shop located in downtown Charlotte Amalie.
She, contradicting her stylish looks, is "Grandma Sandy" – to her twin granddaughters, anyhow. Her mail-order business is for cookies and Granny Baskets filled with cookies, cheeses, coffees and small gift goodies. The shop, which she describes as "a family-friendly place," specializes in her cookies and carries the baskets but also caters to the town lunch crowd with a deli menu including sandwiches, pizza, banana pound cake, sweet potato pie and "Paradise Potato Heads" – baked potato meals topped with anything from meatballs to chicken and gravy.
Davis, who was a Vitelcom sales manager before starting her business, has lived on St. Thomas for 17 years. "I started baking cookies in Atlanta, but just for family and friends, to send packages off to kids in college and that kind of thing," she said. "I was working at Lord & Taylor, and when I started taking cookies there, it began to really get out of hand."
She envisions the "Food Finds" crew taping the preparation and baking of cookies, as well as the shop with its patrons.
&quo
t;Mail order wasn't a part of the business originally, and we still don't have the web site activated for e-commerce," Davis said. But it has attracted business, all the same.
"The largest order we've had was from Education Management Corp., which manages 21 universities," she said. "They ordered 150 dozen cookies for students who were coming here based on their scholastic achievement." That's 1,800 cookies, and before baking any of them, she decided to "call the chamber of commerce in its headquarters and find out if it was a valid company. Happily, I found out that they had been in existence for over 25 years." Locally, she has received cookie orders for such high-profile visitors as radio show host Tom Joyner and his crew and the Rev. Al Sharpton.
Just this month, her shop hosted the first in what will be a monthly series of "Creative Expressions" sessions presented by the University of the Virgin Islands Humanities Division (an expanded version of the old "Poetry & Conversation" programs).
Warned that "Food Finds" could generate a flurry of off-island orders, Davis, who has three employees, said, "We're preparing for that. We already had plans to expand the kitchen facilities." Meantime, a Grandma Sandy's cookbook is due out in June with recipes "mostly for cookies, pies and other desserts but also other things," she said, "and lots of testimonials from happy customers!"
Out of the bush and into the bags
Jacquel Dawson, an agronomist by profession, says her motivation in starting the Bush Tea Project nine years ago was not to build up a business for herself but "to aid Virgin Islands farmers in developing a cash crop."
The Food Network crew "will be going out to farm sites," the native St. Thomian said, noting that 420 different kinds of leaves, seeds, herbs and roots have been identified as ingredients in traditional Virgin Islands teas. "We'll also be shooting lunch at Hervé, where the teas are served, and a bush tea social – a tea party – at Haagensen House." The tea social will be the first of a series she plans to host, "probably weekly" during season, in the recently restored historic home above Kongens Gade in downtown Charlotte Amalie.
She also wants the crew to shoot "customer satisfaction" segments at two other locales where her teas are served – poolside at the Renaissance Grand Beach Resort and at breakfast in the Frenchtown Deli.
Dawson's objective is eventually to market 30 different bush teas. "Right now, I'm comfortably marketing eight," she said, reeling them off without missing a beat: lemongrass, balsam, mint, mango, japana, soursop, sugar apple and bay rum. These are available in gift baskets that come replete with a local sweetener – Virgin Islands honey. Her web page offers all of these but japana, and also cinnamon bark, ginger root and St. John Caneel, either as loose tea or in bags.
Her business is home-based for the time being, and she brings on staff to help on an as-needed basis. "I've always been impressed with cash crop systems and how the community rallies around this big peach on top of the airport," she said. "For bush teas, I have the supply, I have the sales interest. What has been a problem is the middle piece – that it takes money to make money."
Like the other two entrepreneurs, Dawson said she sees the need to improve the look and usefulness of her web site, and she suspects that "Food Finds" may have found her through the Caribbean online marketing site eKalaloo, found at www.eKalaloo.com, where she has marketed her teas since late last year. (Miller has a presence there, too.)
Dawson said her primary objective is still to see local farmers develop tea as "a cash crop, from seed to sales – no, actually, a little farther – to customer satisfaction." The current level of development is nowhere near its potential, she added, "but I know that it's going to grow." While her sales now are mainly in the tourist sector as gift items, "my objective is to market the Virgin Islands as the tea capital of the Caribbean and to market bush tea in a manner similar to Florida and oranges, California and grapes, Georgia and peaches, Idaho and potatoes."
Where and when to see the show
"Food Finds" airs on Food Network in the Virgin Islands at 2 and 11:30 p.m. Monday, 2:30 a.m. Tuesday (Monday night), 2 p.m. Saturday and 3 a.m. Monday (Sunday night). However, the network is carried only by Innovative Business Services cable on St. Croix, on Channel 57.
There's one chance in eight that Innovative Cable on St. Thomas/St. John will pick up the network in the spring. With the locally produced Jubilation! Christian Channel no longer on the air, Innovative is in the process of offering subscribers a free week's preview of eight different available cable offerings, a company representative said. Food Network was previewed Feb. 12-18. At the end of the previews in mid-April, cable customers will get to vote for the one they would most like to have added to the current offerings.

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Three Virgin Islands women in the business of making and marketing island taste treats will soon be showing off and talking up their wares on national cable television.
Food Network, also known as FoodTV, is sending a production crew to the territory for a week starting March 2 to tape segments for its program "Food Finds." Those who've been found by the show researchers are Cheryl Miller, owner of Cheryl's Taste of Paradise on St. John; Sandra Marie Davis, owner of Grandma Sandy's Island Cookie Co. in Royal Dane Mall on St. Thomas; and Jacquel Dawson, founder of The Bush Tea Project on St. Thomas.
The half-hour program that will result will be aired toward the end of April, according to "Food Finds" researcher Mathew Allen.
Food Network, begun about 10 years ago and acquired three years ago by the Scripps media organization, has a rapidly growing audience. As of Jan. 15, Allen said, the network was reaching more than 54 million cable subscriber households, up 10.2 million from a year earlier – and up nearly 400,000 from the preceding month alone. Outside the United States, the network programing can be seen in Canada, Australia, Korea, Thailand and the Philippines.
The FoodTV web site generated more than 43 million page views last year, a gain of 133 percent from the prior year, Allen added. The Internet site states that "Food Finds," now in its second season, "tracks down your long-lost favorites" with host Sandra Pinckney visiting "small-town shops, mom-and-pop stores and local vendors that take pride in making specialty foods the old-fashioned way."
The show is based on a book by sisters Allison and Margaret Engel, also called "Food Finds," that was first published in 1984 and has been updated every few years, Allen explained. "The most recent edition came out last year," he said, and it covers "very indigenous kinds of things."
In the search for prospective "Food Finds" participants, Allen said, "I usually contact the Chambers of Commerce in the areas we're looking at, asking if they have any information on companies that do mail-order business – that's the premise of the show. Generally they say they don't, but then the person on the phone will say, 'Well, I know this guy who does barbecue sauce,' and puts me on to him."
Allen said he came up with the three Virgin Islands subjects "just digging, looking around. I use the Internet quite a bit. Plus, I know a couple of people who used to live in the Virgin Islands and I called them up."
A half-hour program consists of three segments, and the shoot for each segment typically takes a full day. The crew traveling to the Virgin Islands asked for extra time, Allen said, "probably to enjoy themselves a little, but also because this one will take longer, especially the bush tea segment, because they have to go to several locations where the teas are grown, as well as to the owner's home."
Almost any company doing mail-order business today has a web presence, Allen noted, and Miller, Davis and Dawson all do.
Cheryl's Taste of Paradise can be found at www.mangomomma.com. The Grandma Sandy's Cookies site is at www.usvi.net/sandys. And the Bush Tea Project page is at www.bushtea.vi/html/shoppe.htm.
As for the "Food Finds" program itself, it can be accessed at www.foodtv.com/tvshows/foodfinds.
Hot items in limited production
Cheryl Miller has been cooking up hot commodities since 1994, working first out of her home, then a commercial kitchen she set up in the St. John Lumber Yard complex in Cruz Bay. Since 1997 she has been able to promote some of her wares as national prize winners at the annual Fiery Food Show competition.
She won first place in the habanero pepper division last year with her Caribbean Sunburn Hotter Sauce; first place for habaneros in 1999 with her Hot Mango Momma Jam, and a second place in 1997 with her Mango Chutney.
When the "Food Finds" people contacted her, Miller said, they had one question that prompted an instant panic attack: "It was, can I produce 4,000 units [jars of sauces, jams, jellies etc.] a week?" That's four times her normal output, but the producers said their show has been known to prompt that kind of mail-order response from viewers.
"I went over my records, and told them I could produce 2,500," she said. "After that, I can't get enough product or enough bottles." To produce a thousand, she said, "I cook for three or four straight days. Somebody on staff does all the labeling. If I were to produce 2,500 units in a week I would be working real hard – and that's just production. I would still need to be mailing it all out."
She said her web site, up for about a year, "was designed the way I thought it should look," but now she has better ideas – including making it possible for customers to order online. "When people have to take down an 800 number, call for information, then print out a form, fill it out and fax it, it takes a month from inquiry to order – if they order," she said.
This is Miller's second invitation to appear on national cable TV. She turned down the first, from the QVC shopping network channel, because it didn't allow for direct sales and could not guarantee when her segment would air. Locally, she has been featured in two recent food show segments aired on Innovative Cable's TV-2.
Miller envisions the "Food Finds" crew taping the cooking, bottling and labeling processes and doing a site shoot at a garden where she buys peppers. "Most of the ingredients I use are local, including the habaneros and the herbs," she said. One problem, she noted, is that "this is not a pepper-producing time of year." (In season, she buys them in bulk and freezes them for later use.)
Hot sauces really are a hot commodity these days, according to Miller. "It's a very competitive business and growing very fast," she said. "I think one of the main reasons is that hot sauces are not just hot any more, they're full of surprising tastes and flavors. And they're good for you; they lower your blood pressure if you can stand the heat." Her product line, all incorporating Caribbean fruits, consists of four items that are hot and nine that are not.
The goods on Granny's goodies
Sandra Marie Davis started Grandma Sandy's Island Cookie Co. in November 1999 with both the kitchen and the retail shop located in downtown Charlotte Amalie.
She, contradicting her stylish looks, is "Grandma Sandy" – to her twin granddaughters, anyhow. Her mail-order business is for cookies and Granny Baskets filled with cookies, cheeses, coffees and small gift goodies. The shop, which she describes as "a family-friendly place," specializes in her cookies and carries the baskets but also caters to the town lunch crowd with a deli menu including sandwiches, pizza, banana pound cake, sweet potato pie and "Paradise Potato Heads" – baked potato meals topped with anything from meatballs to chicken and gravy.
Davis, who was a Vitelcom sales manager before starting her business, has lived on St. Thomas for 17 years. "I started baking cookies in Atlanta, but just for family and friends, to send packages off to kids in college and that kind of thing," she said. "I was working at Lord & Taylor, and when I started taking cookies there, it began to really get out of hand."
She envisions the "Food Finds" crew taping the preparation and baking of cookies, as well as the shop with its patrons.
&quo t;Mail order wasn't a part of the business originally, and we still don't have the web site activated for e-commerce," Davis said. But it has attracted business, all the same.
"The largest order we've had was from Education Management Corp., which manages 21 universities," she said. "They ordered 150 dozen cookies for students who were coming here based on their scholastic achievement." That's 1,800 cookies, and before baking any of them, she decided to "call the chamber of commerce in its headquarters and find out if it was a valid company. Happily, I found out that they had been in existence for over 25 years." Locally, she has received cookie orders for such high-profile visitors as radio show host Tom Joyner and his crew and the Rev. Al Sharpton.
Just this month, her shop hosted the first in what will be a monthly series of "Creative Expressions" sessions presented by the University of the Virgin Islands Humanities Division (an expanded version of the old "Poetry & Conversation" programs).
Warned that "Food Finds" could generate a flurry of off-island orders, Davis, who has three employees, said, "We're preparing for that. We already had plans to expand the kitchen facilities." Meantime, a Grandma Sandy's cookbook is due out in June with recipes "mostly for cookies, pies and other desserts but also other things," she said, "and lots of testimonials from happy customers!"
Out of the bush and into the bags
Jacquel Dawson, an agronomist by profession, says her motivation in starting the Bush Tea Project nine years ago was not to build up a business for herself but "to aid Virgin Islands farmers in developing a cash crop."
The Food Network crew "will be going out to farm sites," the native St. Thomian said, noting that 420 different kinds of leaves, seeds, herbs and roots have been identified as ingredients in traditional Virgin Islands teas. "We'll also be shooting lunch at Hervé, where the teas are served, and a bush tea social – a tea party – at Haagensen House." The tea social will be the first of a series she plans to host, "probably weekly" during season, in the recently restored historic home above Kongens Gade in downtown Charlotte Amalie.
She also wants the crew to shoot "customer satisfaction" segments at two other locales where her teas are served – poolside at the Renaissance Grand Beach Resort and at breakfast in the Frenchtown Deli.
Dawson's objective is eventually to market 30 different bush teas. "Right now, I'm comfortably marketing eight," she said, reeling them off without missing a beat: lemongrass, balsam, mint, mango, japana, soursop, sugar apple and bay rum. These are available in gift baskets that come replete with a local sweetener – Virgin Islands honey. Her web page offers all of these but japana, and also cinnamon bark, ginger root and St. John Caneel, either as loose tea or in bags.
Her business is home-based for the time being, and she brings on staff to help on an as-needed basis. "I've always been impressed with cash crop systems and how the community rallies around this big peach on top of the airport," she said. "For bush teas, I have the supply, I have the sales interest. What has been a problem is the middle piece – that it takes money to make money."
Like the other two entrepreneurs, Dawson said she sees the need to improve the look and usefulness of her web site, and she suspects that "Food Finds" may have found her through the Caribbean online marketing site eKalaloo, found at www.eKalaloo.com, where she has marketed her teas since late last year. (Miller has a presence there, too.)
Dawson said her primary objective is still to see local farmers develop tea as "a cash crop, from seed to sales – no, actually, a little farther – to customer satisfaction." The current level of development is nowhere near its potential, she added, "but I know that it's going to grow." While her sales now are mainly in the tourist sector as gift items, "my objective is to market the Virgin Islands as the tea capital of the Caribbean and to market bush tea in a manner similar to Florida and oranges, California and grapes, Georgia and peaches, Idaho and potatoes."
Where and when to see the show
"Food Finds" airs on Food Network in the Virgin Islands at 2 and 11:30 p.m. Monday, 2:30 a.m. Tuesday (Monday night), 2 p.m. Saturday and 3 a.m. Monday (Sunday night). However, the network is carried only by Innovative Business Services cable on St. Croix, on Channel 57.
There's one chance in eight that Innovative Cable on St. Thomas/St. John will pick up the network in the spring. With the locally produced Jubilation! Christian Channel no longer on the air, Innovative is in the process of offering subscribers a free week's preview of eight different available cable offerings, a company representative said. Food Network was previewed Feb. 12-18. At the end of the previews in mid-April, cable customers will get to vote for the one they would most like to have added to the current offerings.