How it Began
I started Marge in 2010 in the San Francisco Bay Area. At the time, I’d been laid off from my job teaching high school English and began working in the catering department at a local restaurant. I’d bake in my free time, and I somehow managed to convince the baking team at work to let me train with them on the weekends. Soon I decided I wanted to go at it alone, so I rented commercial kitchen space in the evenings and prepped pies, cookies and brownies that I sold at our local farmers markets on the weekends.
How it Grew
One lucky day in 2012, The Wall Street Journal called and said they needed me to overnight them granola; one of their writers had the chance to try it at the farmers market and fell in love. They wanted to cover it in the paper. When the piece came out, our online store exploded and orders streamed in from all across the country. My husband Sam helped make spreadsheets and fill orders and we tried not to panic. Around the same time, I’d started bringing samples of granola to all my favorite stores, trying to convince them to carry it on their shelves. It often worked. Today, I no longer sell pies and cookies; granola is our main focus. I relocated the business to Seattle, WA and today we have our own kitchen and produce granola for local farmers markets, large grocery chains, smaller retail shops, and our own online store.
Why More Granola?
If you’re anything like me, you marvel at the choices of muesli and granola when you walk down the cereal aisle. It’s endless. So how is our granola different? When I started Marge, I was making a granola that I often ate at home with far less sugar than most store bought brands – one that was truly loaded with nuts, seeds and dried fruit and that was, obviously, freshly baked. This is the granola people want: a blend with immense personality, color, and bold flavor without all the sugar and preservatives. So that’s what we do. We specialize in small-batch granolas and cereals using organic grains, lots of good nuts and seeds, olive oil, organic Vermont maple syrup, and our signature blend of warm spices. We bake each batch slowly at a low temperature to give it that characteristic toastiness. And yes, I still eat it each week.
These days, Marge Granola is more of a team effort rather than a one-woman show. We have an operations manager and a small baking and farmers market team. And while I’m not in front of the ovens as much as I’d like to be, I’m so proud that we’re making a consistent product that people really love – that families bring us into their kitchens each week for breakfast. That feels like a really big deal to me, and I’m so grateful that we’ve earned their trust and it’s allowed us to keep doing what we love to do: feed you in the morning.
For a peek at our flavor offerings, new recipes, and ordering information, visit our website for more information.
Glimpses of Spring
We returned home from San Francisco on New Years Eve just in time for dinner, and craving greens -- or anything other than baked goods and pizza (ohhhh San Francisco, how I love your bakeries. And citrus. And winter sunshine). Instead of driving straight home, we stopped at our co-op where I ran in for some arugula, an avocado, a bottle of Prosecco, and for the checkout guys to not-so-subtly mock the outlook of our New Years Eve: rousing party, eh? They looked to be in their mid-twenties and I figured I probably looked ancient to them, sad even. But really, there wasn't much sad (or rousing, to be fair) about our evening: putting Oliver to bed, opening up holiday cards and hanging them in the kitchen, and toasting the New Year with arugula, half a quesadilla and sparkling wine. It wasn't lavish. But it's what we both needed. (Or at least what we had to work with.) Since then, I've been more inspired to cook lots of "real" food versus all of the treats and appetizers and snacks the holidays always bring on. I made Julia Turshen's curried red lentils for the millionth time, a wintry whole grain salad with tuna and fennel, roasted potatoes, and this simple green minestrone that I've taken for lunch this week. Determined to fit as many seasonal vegetables into a bowl as humanly possible, I spooned a colorful pesto on top, as much for the reminder of warmer days to come as for the accent in the soup (and for the enjoyment later of slathering the leftover pesto on crusty bread).
It turns out shopping for wedding dresses is nothing like they make it appear in the movies. Or at least it hasn't been for me. Angels don't sing. Stars don't explode. Relatives don't cry. There isn't a sudden heart-stopping moment that this is, in fact, "the one." To be honest, I always knew that I wasn't the kind of gal for whom angels would sing or stars would explode but I did think I'd have some kind of moment where I could tell I'd found the best dress. Instead, my mom flew into town and we spent three (yes, three!!) days shopping for dresses, and since then I've been back to the stores we visited -- and I'm more undecided than ever. Tomorrow morning I'll return with my friend Keena to try and tie this business up once and for all. Cross your fingers.
When I was single and living alone in the Bay Area, I made virtually the same thing for dinner each night. I ate meals quickly while in front of the computer. Or even worse: the television. This most often included what I call "Mexican Pizzas" which were basically glorified quesadillas baked in the oven until crispy. Sometimes, if I was really feeling like cooking, I'd whip up a quick stir-fry with frozen vegetables from Trader Joe's or a mushroom frittata using pre-sliced mushrooms. Mostly, though, it was Mexican Pizzas -- a good four or five nights a week. Today, thankfully, dinner looks a lot different. Meals in general look a lot different. How would I explain that difference? I think that ultimately how we feel about our life colors how we choose to feed ourselves and the importance that we place on preparing our own meals.
Today was 75 degrees in Seattle and it seemed the whole city was out and about drinking iced coffee in tank tops and perhaps not working all that hard. When we have a hit of sunshine like this in April (or, really, any time of the year), we're all really good at making excuses to leave the office early -- or, simply, to "work from home." I just got back from LA last night, unpacked in a whirlwind this morning, and took Oliver to meet up with three friends from our parents group at the zoo. The only other time I'd been to the Seattle zoo was once with Sam a few years ago when we arrived thirty minutes before closing and ended up doing a whirlwind tour -- sprinting from the giraffes to the massive brown bear to the meerkat. The visit today was much different: we strolled slowly trying to avoid the spring break crowds and beating sun. I managed to only get one of Oliver's cheeks sunburned, and he even got in a decent nap. A success of an afternoon, I'd say. Coming home I realized we didn't have much in the fridge for lunch -- but thankfully there was a respectable stash of Le Croix (Le Croix season is back!) and a small bowl of this whole grain salad I made right before I left town. It's the kind of salad that's meant for this time of year: it pulls off colorful and fresh despite the fact that much of the true spring and summer produce isn't yet available. And for that reason, I make a few versions of it in early spring, often doubling the recipe so there's always the possibility of having a small bowl at 1 p.m. while the baby naps in the car seat, one cheek sunburned, windows and back door open -- a warm breeze creeping into the kitchen.
On Monday our little family of three is headed to the airport at 6 am to board our first with-baby cross-country trip. We'll be visiting Sam's family in New Jersey for a few days, then renting a car and driving over to meet up with my family at my mom's lake house in the Adirondacks. Sam's younger sister and her kids have yet to meet Oliver; my grandpa has yet to meet him, and Oliver has yet to take a dunk in a lake, see a firefly, or spend quality time with energetic dogs -- of which there will be three. A lot of firsts. This week my family has been madly texting, volunteering to make certain meals or sweets on assigned days while we're at the cabin and it got me thinking about really simple, effortless summer desserts -- in particular, ones that you can make while staying in a house with an unfamiliar kitchen and unfamiliar equipment and still do a pretty bang-up job. I think fruit crisp is just that thing.