by Todd Kliewer
Like Johnny Appleseed, Jerry Downing plants seeds. But the seeds Downing sows are an entrepreneur’s dreams and instead of apple trees, he grows a legacy of locally produced food products.
Downing and wife, Debbie, opened Gotta Love It! Kitchen two years ago in Old Colorado City. This fall they expanded to a new location and added a service: co-packing. They call it Vision Foods where aspiring foodies create, package and bring to market products from the Colorado Springs community.
Jerry Downing puts it like this. “If I take one business passion, one person’s dream… I think of it as planting seed in fertile soil… and when there’s enough seeds planted in the soil, we now have a food system.“
Gotta Love It! Kitchen is located in the Uintah Station Shopping Center at 1625 W. Uintah St., Suite K, near Mountain Mama Natural Foods.
Geoff Hyche, a partner in Vision Foods, is an example of this philosophy in action. Hyche recently packaged spaghetti and teriyaki sauces at the kitchen and successfully placed 350 cases of his Ugly Dawg salsa at the Grand View Marketplace King Soopers, 3250 Centennial Blvd. Because Vision Foods co-packing kitchen is FDA certified, Ugly Dawg is also able to send its wares across state lines. This enabled the salsa maker to win a national contract with Whole Foods Market this month.
Nourish Organic Juice is another example of a local business utilizing the co-packing space, but in a different way. Nourish will sell their goods in the upcoming Ivywild School project, a mixed-use commercial center expected to open in February. Until the juice makers have their own commercial space to create and package their products, they plan on using Downing’s kitchen to produce their line.
Vision Foods will even co-pack for those who have a concept but lack a ready product. R. D. Sharp approached the kitchen with nothing more than a barbecue sauce recipe and a photo of himself for the label. After signing a non-disclosure agreement, Vision Foods helped Sharp identify appropriate packaging and obtain state registration. They also provided liability insurance, calculated material costs, bottled the product at a case price and delivered everything to Sharp to sell. Jerry Downing calls this the “soup to nuts” option.
Downing hopes eventually to obtain USDA certification, which would enable his operation to include co-packing for meat-based products.
Other local businesses and Colorado farmers also benefit from Downing’s vision. Flex Tech provides the labels for Vision Foods. Chilies used in product preparation come from a farm in Pueblo. As much as possible, Downing looks for local vendors to supply the ingredients in the food products. “My passion is to take all these little incubator businesses and develop a food system that is self-sustainable,” Downing said. “If they are successful, I am successful.”
Contact Jerry Downing at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 719-314-8714 for further information.