Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Coffee Talk: Southern Straws

Hi! This interview is part of our Coffee Talk series. You'll see this once a month, and we'll be sharing a conversation with friends of plainjane designs over a (sometimes virtual!) cup of coffee. Enjoy!

For this month's Coffee Talk, we met up with Margaret Amos, creator of Southern Straws. We can't stop eating them here in the shop, and we think you'll want to snag a few for yourself, too, once you read her story. Grab your coffee and join us!

pjd: How did the idea come about for Southern Straws? 
margaret amos: Southern Straws started out as a hobby many years ago. I cooked my first cheese straw at age 20. Looking for a Christmas gift idea for friends, I asked my mother if I could borrow her press and old recipe. Cranking out cheese straws turned into a regular tradition with friends and family; honestly I couldn't show up to an event without my cheese straws. I was working in the corporate world and making cheese straws for fun and a little more seriously around Christmastime.  Fast forward 30 years, and the opportunity presented itself where I was able to leave the corporate world and do something totally different: make my cheese straws for a living. With tremendous support from friends, family and mentors, Southern Straws was born in 2011. 

pjd: Have you always loved to cook or did it start with the cheese straws?
ma: I’m not a gourmet cook by any means, but I’m not afraid to try new things. Cheese straws came easy to me. They are something folks either find fun and easy to make or they are extremely difficult and they never want to try making them again.  Now, ask my 3 sons and they would tell you they wished I would cook something besides cheese straws…maybe meatloaf or spaghetti!  They’ve grown up around cheese straws and are actually quite the experts in the cheese straw factory.

pjd: What has been your favorite part about creating these cheese straws? 
ma: That’s an easy question…it’s the events that folks are having where our cheese straws will be served. Particularly weddings; I feel like we’ve had a small hand in making their day special when we create out-of-town gift boxes or reception trays for weddings.I love that part!  We’re lucky in that our process of changing ribbons and labels to fit the season or event opens up many opportunities for us to customize our packaging for special events for our clients. 

pjd: You recently hired your son to help you with your business. What's his take on the classic Southern staple? (Margaret's son, Neal, answered this one for us!)
ma: Having been around my mom’s cheese straws my entire life, it’s been exciting to see something we grew up knowing as a hobby turn into a business and my career.  I love the fact it’s a start-up; from strategy to marketing plan, from the finances to production, I’ve been able to get involved from the ground up.  For me, it’s not about “making cheese straws” but about all aspects of the business.  It’s fun, challenging, hard work, and different every day, which is something I enjoy.

pjd: Any other flavors or cheese straw products in the works?ma: We started with our Original flavor, which has a pretty good kick of cayenne.  Knock off the kick and we have our Mild flavor.  We then would get requests for an even hotter cheese straw and that led to our Cajun Spicy; it’s hot but with a blend of flavors that gives it a Cajun twist.  Our most recent flavor addition is Jalapeno White Cheddar.  It may sound like it would be our hottest but it actually isn't.  It reminds me of hot pepper jelly over cream cheese on crackers.  They smell incredible when cooking!  Looking ahead, we want to create a cheese straw more for the sweet tooth, maybe lemon or lime.  We’re looking to bring that to market early next year.  You can buy Southern Straws in our shop. Come by today for a box (or four!) 

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