Meet the Producer: Souren Etyemezian, founder and CEO of Fastachi nut company
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Souren Etyemezian, founder and CEO of Fastachi nut company, talks about fine roasting, business serendipity and helping other companies to not make the mistakes he’s made.
How did you get into the nut business?
This is the only work I’ve ever done. A friend of mine had a small retail nut shop in California and in 1989 asked me if I was interested in expanding it to the East Coast. I learned roasting in L.A., and then went home to Jordan to talk to my family and raise money to purchase the roasters from Lebanon, the store displays and even the cash register. I had zero work experience. No budget, no nothing. We just opened the door and started selling nuts.
What was the market like when you started?
People didn’t have a good vibe about nuts then because they were considered more like candy than good food. But one day, it was maybe in August or September, a customer came in and gave me a few catalogs he received about nuts and suggested that we create packages for the holidays. We bought baskets and put nuts in them and even though the packaging was inefficient and we discontinued it the next year, it helped grow our business.
What is the key to great roasting?
We start with a good raw nut and for most of our products we dry roast them in small 50-pound batches. The only thing we add is a little sea salt. And we are careful about how we buy, how we roast and how we keep them. We also roast daily or weekly so we don’t keep a huge inventory.
How did you come up with your signature cranberry mix?
I was at a state fair in maybe 1997 or ‘98 and the space next to me was the Cape Cod Cranberry Association. They were selling cranberry cookies, cranberry juice and cranberry cakes. I asked them, ‘how can I get you to sell my product?’ They said, ‘put some cranberries in it.’ So that night I mixed some in and that’s how it got started.
What do you consider your passion?
Business. I can’t stop talking about it. I’ve even recently begun consulting because I want to help other businesses not make the mistakes I’ve made. I didn’t plan on consulting but someone invited me, and I liked it. I enjoy talking to other small business people and that’s what I love about the community of the NASFT. We talk food with suppliers, buyers and colleagues day in and day out. It’s like my extended family. It’s not just about the Fancy Food Shows for me anymore but a year-round thing—being part of it gives us the thinking to be better and stronger.
I know you like all types of food but if you knew it were going to be your last meal, what would you eat?
There is a pizza place in Arlington, Mass. called Za that I love. I would have their potato pizza with iced tea. —Susan Segrest
Susan Segrest is a contributing editor to foodspring.com and has also written for Marie Claire, the New York Daily News and Prevention.