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Iowa retailer finds success with accidental granola business

Published March 20, 2014

FORT MADISON, Iowa (BRAIN) — When Slipstream Cycling owner Mike Winnike began serving smoothies to customers in his shop, he had no idea how far the food side of his business would ultimately take him.

Winnike announced in mid-March that he is scaling back bike services in order to find balance between running the store and keeping up with demand for Slipstream Organics' three varieties of granola.

"We'll be here at the shop, making granola and we'll be figuring out what we can pull off," said Winnike. "The granola business is demanding more of our time these days, but we'll still be running both — it just might mean longer turnaround times for bike repairs."

The idea to cook up and sell batches of granola evolved organically, sparked by a trip to Colorado in 2012 when Winnike came across the best granola he had ever eaten. "I had never been much of a granola eater before," he said. "I liked to put it on top of smoothies to add a little crunch, but honestly, a lot of it just wasn't very good."

So Winnike stocked up and brought home as much granola as he could. He added it to smoothies, and would sell what he could by the pound when customers started asking to buy it. Winnike eventually contacted chef Heidi Weiser at Alfalfa's Market in Boulder where he first bought the granola and got permission to make it using her recipe, which he still uses today.

Before long, Winnike was selling 100 pounds of granola a month out of his shop, which has a nice kitchen in the back. "And we don't have much foot traffic here," said Winnike. "This is a town of under 10,000 people." Increasing demand prompted Winnike to start selling at the local farmers' market in summer of 2013, which helped him build a large enough following to get his granola in a few local grocery stores.

Slipstream Organics' products are certified organic, and Winnike said that although his prices are a few dollars more than mainstream granola, it's worth it because he uses quality ingredients—many of which are sourced locally.

"We will never skimp on ingredients, so it's a high-quality product," he said. "We don't want to sell anything we wouldn't feel good about eating ourselves."

Winnike and his head mechanic Jory Conor now make about 500 pounds of granola per week, and just received approval to sell at Whole Foods. In collaboration with local dairy company, Kalona Supernatural, Winnike also plans to sell yogurt and granola parfaits along the RAGBRAI route this summer.

Slipstream Cycling opened in March 2011, and sells bikes from Specialized, Felt and Raleigh. According to Winnike, his customers have had mixed reactions to the announcement that the shop would be scaled back.

"On one hand, they love being able to come in and buy granola," he said. "But they are also loyal to the bike shop, so will miss it in it's full capacity. We appreciate what they've done for us, and we also have a sense of loyalty to our customers, so we'll figure out how to move forward so we can best balance both businesses."

Winnike also hopes to pick up a few bike retailers to sell it in their stores. "It's a really good fit for bike shops," said Winnike. "It's a great snack, and the packaging is bicycle themed, so it fits in."

Retailers interested in carrying Slipstream granola can contact Winnike via the store's website.


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