The last few times Judy Malmon talked with The Savvy Celiac about her business, it was closing — with the hope for launching a line of Cooqi Gluten Free mixes. That has finally come to fruition; although it took longer than expected and taught Malmon a few lessons along the way.
Cooqi closes in Spring of 2010
Cooqi, which was located on Marshall Avenue in St. Paul closed in the spring of 2010. It was one of the first gluten-free bakeries in the Twin Cities and catered to fresh-baked goodies, which is a rarity to find.
In retrospect, Malmon says the timing just wasn’t right, “The timing of that business was during a severe economic downturn, when prices were rising, people were cutting back on their spending and banks and investors were shutting their doors to growth to all but the most established of businesses.”
“There still wasn’t a belief that a strictly gluten free operation had legs from a funding perspective.”
So things had to change. “I could see that my problem was not a lack of demand or market size,” Malmon said, “but rather a need to streamline and have a broader reach with contained costs, so I cut my overhead, redesigned my entire business, and relaunched with a product line based on the same philosophy and ultimate products (delicious gluten free baked goods) but in a more scalable and distributable format.”
Unexpected lengthy relaunch of new Cooqi Gluten Free
Back in May of 2010, I was talking with Malmon about her goal of getting mixes out soon. She had wanted them at the 2010 celiac walk in the Twin Cities, but as I recall the mixes just weren’t quite ready for our May event date. Malmon says now, “I thought I would just close the bakery and launch the mixes a few weeks later….I was wrong!” Between problems in production, ensuring quality control and increasing volume of product, plus the addition of packaging, web development and distribution –it all took time.
But also during that time, she had to maintain her pizza crusts that companies like Pizza Luce use on their gluten free menu. “One of my former employees started his own operation based on my recipe and utilizing my flour mix…that arrangement was a win-win situation,” Malmon said “…allowing an employee who would have been out of a job to start a business on solid ground and affording my new business format an immediate source of revenue and ability to continue serving the community while I developed my other products.”
New Cooqi Mixes are NOW available!
Fast forward to now…the Cooqi mixes are available in the eastern suburbs of the Twin Cities area plus you can order them on line. You can also support her products at a few restaurants who use her gluten free mixes to cater to gluten free menu items: Cafe Wren in Luck, Wisconsin, River Rock Cafe in St. Peter, and the pizza crust is at all Pizza Luce restaurants, Birchwood Cafe, Lake Harriet Pizza, Galactic Pizza and the Blake School (nicely done Blake).
In the last year and a half Malmon says she’s learned some valuable lessons:
- Patience. “It’s been really hard to watch the gluten free marketplace explode while I’ve felt like I’m sitting on the sidelines.”
- “Big sales doesn’t necessarily mean success & I don’t have to do everything”
- “I”m not the only one out there who values quality and nutrition and goodness. Cooqi customers have been so wonderful and supportive through this transition.”
Keep an eye on Malmon’s website, she will be posting recipes on her blog and asking you to share some recipes using her mixes. Plus there could be a cookbook in the near future! Congrats to Judy Malmon and Cooqi for surviving this bumpy economic ride to keep good gluten free mixes available to those who need it most.