Tonight I am comfortably sitting in our small apartment still adjusting back to land life after moving off of our sailboat home of 10 years. After deliveries today and loading up for deliveries to a new Albertsons in Goleta tomorrow (Thanks so much to Ahmed a wonderful customer of ours from Albertsons Calle Real), I remember even though I feel so alone most of the time that there are so many people that brought us to the 11-year point in business. One of my favorite stories and serendipitous moments is the opening of Whole Foods Oxnard, CA. We had only been selling into a handful of Whole Foods stores at the time, I would load up my car and make regular deliveries to a select number of Whole Foods stores that were willing to give us a chance. One of the receivers in the Venice store said to me, “I will know that you really made it when you aren’t delivering your own product anymore”. I remembered that for a long time as I would load and unload hundreds of pounds of lemonade, drive hundreds of miles every month, fight to keep my shelf space that I had fought so hard for, and hope that one day I could “make it” and have someone deliver our lemonades for us too.
That first big break came for me during the hustle and bustle one day in a brand new Oxnard Whole Foods store getting ready to open in just days. The store that our community was so excited about and had waited so long for. I had been asked to bring in dozens of cases and was led to the end cap by the register. The end cap!! The most revered place in the store! I was so excited I was jumping up and down (as I did so much during my early lemonade days) and handing out iced cold bottles to all of the grocery team. I started building the display hoping I could remember what the Grocery Manager had told me on how to build the display. When I was finished I looked up at the massive display of my lemonade, my own creation. Something that was here now in the world, but hadn’t been before. And we were in this brand new beautiful Whole Foods store… it was completely amazing – I needed a picture of this! I looked up turning around to find someone to take my picture. So many team members all working hard opening packages, and boxes, setting up displays, but one person stood out. A guy with shorts and a t-shirt – I walked straight up to him and asked him if he could please take my picture. He smiled and said, “You must be Lori,” I said so excited and proud, “Yes!!” He said, “I told them to put your product here”. I looked at him more carefully this time and said, “But I thought the Grocery Manager was the one. Who are you?” And, without missing a beat, he said, “I am Robert Acosta, in charge of all of the Southern Pacific Region” I looked at him in disbelief… you see, this is the man that I had been looking for weeks. I knew if I could just talk to him and convince them that they could help me distribute our product on their trucks we could get to more stores without me having to go to every store myself. I will never forget his kind eyes, he said, “We can help you, bring your product into our warehouses, and you won’t have to do the deliveries anymore”. And in that one conversation, we gained over 30 more stores. And of course more happy tears, but at that moment I knew that maybe I had “made it” I found a distributor to help us grow. I am still so sad that Robert is no longer with us, but the people that he helped as he did us are all so grateful that he had the vision to bring local products to the stores and help as many new manufacturers as he could. It is for Robert and so many others that have helped us along our journey over the last 11 years. I am eternally grateful to all of them and you for taking the time to be a part of our adventures.
Our mission is to bring you the most delicious lemonades for you to sip and share.
Lori Volk, Chief Believer Lori’s Original Lemonade