Client Interview: GG of GG’s Fine Food
Date Posted: 03/14/2014 | By:
Today we talk with the owner of GG’s Fine Food –GG. She is based in Roswell, Georgia – where all sorts of creole aromas pour out of her amazing, one-of-a-kind storefront.
She prepares food to go daily – treats like crawfish pie – and also puts up packages of all sorts of Louisiana sweetness and savory-ness. People rave about her ‘Bodacious creole seasoning’ for one!
Us: We have gotten to know you pretty well over the years since you’ve owned GG’s Fine Food. To us, you always seem on top of the world, but your backstory on how you got here certainly had some amazing challenges. Would you share with our readers how you came out of New Orleans after Katrina to start this new chapter in your life?
GG: I had had a thriving restaurant and everything going for me – had just built the house of my dreams and people were regulars in my restaurant – and then Katrina hit. I lost everything.
I was underinsured. Lost my house, my car and still had to settle my debts – both personal and business. And they were significant. What’s a woman to do when she’s upside down – and feeling full of despair?
After Hurricane Katrina left my business and home in ruins, our daughter had heard about Georgia State opening their doors to student victims from the New Orleans disaster. My three children and husband and I moved to Atlanta with that head start.
I opened up a restaurant there a year later. I served the creole food that people had known me for in my New Orleans restaurant and catering business — right there in my Georgia restaurant.
Things were going well . . . and then the recession hit. Honey, that second storm hit me even harder than the first. It was an economic wallop. We lost customers and I had to close my restaurant, store our equipment in a warehouse, and we all but lost hope. It was a very, very dark time.
My youngest daughter brought my spirits up six months into this downturn when she persuaded me to pull it together and overcome the adversity. I realized at that moment, my grandmother’s recipes would once again get me through. She had always said: “where there’s a will, there’s a way!” Boy, she was right.
I turned our Woodstock, GA warehouse into a manufacturing facility and commercial kitchen for my food items. I then opened a storefront in historic downtown Roswell.
All creole of course. Word got out! The folks who had loved my Atlanta restaurant were thrilled that our pies and our coffees and our seasonings were coming back. This alone told me I would be successful.
Us: You had no money to speak of. How did you do this?
GG: I sold some equipment, for pennies on the dollar sometimes. I talked to friends and told them I needed help – shared my vision with them. I bought ‘blooper’ paints to decorate the store. That’s paint that didn’t mix right and was rejected at the hardware store.
And I learned.
I became a sponge for knowledge. Learned retail operations, which is quite different than running a restaurant. I got up to speed on manufacturing too! I read and talked to people, and taught myself to make and sell product in my store and on the Internet. Even ecommerce was foreign to me when I started. I even taught myself how to create a brand and to sell it on line.
Us: Seems like nothing was too daunting for you. Where did you come by this sort of courage, GG?
GG: I had the vision – I got really clear that this could be a very profitable business and I felt it in my bones. I knew my product was amazing, second to none. I had the generational recipes that would wow people. People just had to taste them – and that meant marketing. I set about talking to ad agencies and branding firms. And I didn’t much like them! But boy did I learn.
What I did next was find the best vendors and suppliers I could. Ones that weren’t too precious, but very realistic and fair-minded. Ones who could see my vision along with me. That’s where Todd and Leapin Lizard Labels came in.
Us: Yes, we made a good connection from the start. The fact that Todd (our owner) is from Georgia, did that have anything to do with your faithful patronage?
GG: Todd’s along with me for the ride! He can’t leave me – we’re stuck like glue!
I depend on him and his personal attention. In fact, I base my business approach to customers on how Todd treats me, consistently. He’s there when I need him. You can’t talk to people anymore – you get all sorts of ‘messages’ on the phone but never a person. He’s patient and kind and he doesn’t try to sell you anything you don’t want or need.
And the labels – they are vivid and spot on reproductions of my logo and visuals.
Todd is a precious jewel in my business. Honey, listen – I’ve got just four words of advice for how to get outstanding work done: use only the best!
Us: Do you have any advice for our readers on running a thriving business, despite setbacks?
GG: I invest everything back into the business. And I never let the naysayers dissuade me from my vision. As a result, I’ve got orders coming in from Krogers and am in discussion with Costcos and even Whole Foods! I’ve been in manufacturing for six years now and my #1 piece of advice is to trust God and have faith. And 86 all those naysayers.
Things will be greater later! That means persistence wins every time. Winners don’t quit and quitters don’t win.
Us: Did you ever think about going and getting a job, during all the pressure?
GG: That’s all I heard. “Go get a job.” Those folks didn’t see what I saw.
Sure count the costs – you have to, but if you are willing to put the time in and do a little sacrificing, just a bit – then you will succeed.
Us: What are your future dreams?
GG: I would love to open a steak house and oyster bar. I’d also like to have GG’s Fine Food become a household name. And I will accomplish that with humility. Every pie I fill or seasoning I add to a recipe reminds me of my grandmother who also lived in really challenging times, they were sure turbulent in the south in the sixties. And she taught us that she may not be with us in the future, but you can take care of yourself because you’ll always be able to cook!
I’ve gone through some real rough patches, can’t remember the last time I took a vacation, I work really hard . . . but overall I’ve learned from my mistakes and picked myself up and wouldn’t change my life for nothing.
Todd’s advice: Check out GG’s website at www.ggsfinefood.com. While you’re there, pick up a copy of her amazing cookbook “For the Love of Gumbo, Let’s Cook!” and tell her how much you liked this interview of her!