Dining With Miss Lil: Harlem Local Vendors Program Showcase Held At Settepani’s

By Lil Nickelson

In 2015, Harlem Park to Park (“HP2P”) partnered with Whole Foods Market to launch the Harlem Local Vendors Program (“HLVP”).

HLVP is a six-month business accelerator and procurement program for Harlem-based makers and manufacturers of unique high-quality products. The HLVP partnership led to more than 20 local vendors successfully securing supplier contracts with Whole Foods Market’s first Harlem store. Since that first year, the partnership expanded and by 2017 other organizations include Columbia University’s Business School, its Small Business Development Center (“SBDC”) and University Campus Dining as well as Hot Bread Kitchen Incubates and Harlem Community Development Corporation.

On Tuesday, July 30th, 2019, HP2P hosted it’s “Harlem Summer Gourmet & Specialty Food Expo Show at Settepani located at 196 Lenox Avenue on the Southeast corner of 120th Street that showcased 17 gourmet food suppliers that had graduated from their latest class of locally made products in Harlem. Eight of the seventeen vendors showcased made various dessert products; one made vegan chocolate and one made spirit-infused desserts. They are two hot sauce manufacturers, one jam-maker, one spirits vendor, one popcorn maker, one waffle maker, one popcorn maker, one tapenade & spreads maker, one seasoning blending vendor and one hot dog condiment maker.

Business experience ranged from formally launching their business within the last year to have been in business for over 18 years. Since how you can market and conduct business has been transformed in the 21st century with social media outlets, even the seasoned businesses have new tips and tricks to get their name and products on the minds and lips of consumers new and far.

Today’s artisan food vendors in Harlem have taken advantage of HP2P’s HLVP, Harlem Business Alliance’s Lillian Project and/or utilized the services of non-profit group Start Small Think Big to get free legal advice on setting up the business structure.

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The seventeen vendors showcased this summer were:

  • 718 Heat Factory – they produce hot sauces that are antioxidant rich, nutrient-based, and hand made in small batches in a commercial kitchen in New York City by two native New Yorkers www.718heatfactory.com
  • Aromas Boutique Bakery – Founded by sister duo Jo-Ann and Chef Eileen Barett; bakery offers custom cakes, catering and corporate gifts www. aromasboutiquebakery.com
  • Blondie’s Divine Desserts – Tamiko Gordon offers a broad variety of cakes and cupcakes with unusual flavors (regular or infused with Jack Daniel’s Honey Tennessee Whiskey) www.blondiedivinedesserts.com
  • Granapoos Creations – Lynee Jordan’s bakery specializes in spirit infused desserts www.granapooscreations.com
  • HH Bespoke Spirits – Sharene Barnett-Wood has a fashionable portfolio of unique spirits. HH Bespoke Gin is in the dry London style, Bespoke Vodka is a clean spirit made mainly from corn and Bespoke Rum, a barrel-aged blend, delivers sweetness and spice. www.hhbespokespirits.com
  • Janie’s Life-Changing Baked Goods – custom baked goods and inventor of the Pie Crust Cookie www.janiebakes.com
  • K’s European Jams – Katarina Wilson produces a line of artisanal small-batch jams, jellies, marmalades & condiments born in the “old world” and reimagined for today’s tastes www.ksjamsny.com
  • Mama’s One Sauce – Vy Higginsen and her partners aka The Mama Company of New York, produce a condiment for all foods in a mild, spicy and fire sauce that is perfect for any dish. www.mamasonesauce.com
  • Mama Pops Popcorn – Twana Adams produces 100% natural gourmet popcorn-based snacks that are made with real butter, cheese, maple syrup and other ingredients you’d find in a kitchen. mamapopspopcorn@gmail.com
  • Mercedes Waffles and More – Mercedes Thomas catering business specializes in comfort food and healthy options www.mercedeswafflesandmore.com
  • Penny’s Pastries – is a Bronx-based sweet potato dessert company owned by Rise Brown that uses all-natural ingredients and no preservatives in their homemade pies, crumb cakes and puddings with Alabama origins. DessertWithPenny@gmail.com
  • Rubarama – Owned by English Guinea, LLC the company creates seasoning blends to take your dishes to a new flavor level that is free of preservatives and gluten, as well as are vegetarian-friendly. www.rubarama.com
  • Settepani Bakery – a brick and mortar store with outside dining opened by Leah Abraham and her executive chef and master baker husband Antonino “Nino” Settepani, they hosted the showcase in their business. Their fresh-baked loaves of bread and Italian desserts took desserts and bread up a notch within Harlem under the guidance of Chef Nino. They still sell food and wines too; small plates, pasta plates, large plates, and sweet plates. Thursday night music is jazz and will feature local jazz artists. www.settepani.com
  • Spread Mmm’s – Rebecca Montero produces small-batch artisanal olive tapenade and sassy savory spreads. www.spread-mmms.com
  • Sweet Suga Mamas – Jasmine makes Southern-style rum cakes and rum cake bites. www.sweetsugarmamas.com
  • Sweet Vegan Chocolates – Andrea Young produces handmade small batches of vegan chocolates from ingredients that are nut-free, soy-free and gluten-free from organic, locally sourced ingredients. www.sweetvegan.nyc
  • The Little Hot Dog Wagon – Dawn Demry creates organic homemade kraut as flavor enhancer toppings for beef, chicken, seafood, salads, and vegetables. www.littlehotdogwagon.com

The vendors shared the following comments with me about their the most valuable lesson(s) learned from going through HP2P’s HLVP and they are:

  • I met people that I was able to network with who are different stages of their business cycles.
  • I learned the manage my finances better.
  • I felt so isolated and like I was operating in a vacuum before the program and now I feel a sense of community with the other participants.
  • The table decorating class at Macy’s was so eye-opening for me because I never paid much attention to that detail before.
  • I learned so much about the operational side of running a business, marketing my products and displaying my products.
  • From the monthly meetings, I gained exposure to recognizing that e-commerce can be a powerful tool to grow my business, so I have an online presence that’s growing.
  • Social media isn’t a fad for the millennials and so I’m learning how to use Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to attract new customers and stay in touch with current customers.
  • I’m now developing a business to business contacts to contract with larger retailers and institutions that I didn’t even consider in the past.

So if you are or aspire to be a manufacturer of consumer goods that would like to increase your business knowledge than you need to contact the Columbia-Harlem Small Business Development Center to sign up for their next HLVP information session that is scheduled for Monday, November 5th, 2019 from 1 pm to 3 pm at Uris Hall room 301 on the Morningside campus of Columbia University.

Photos by Rudy Collins: 1) Katarina Wilson, owner of K’s European Jams and Miss Lil. 2) Vy Higginsen and NYC Councilman Bill Perkins in front of Mama’s One Sauce table. 3) Settepani’s exterior shot.

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