August 19, 2016 10:26:34 AM
There are multiple legitimate forms of economic development. There is the Joe-Max-big-deal-millions-of-dollars projects; there is event creation for us to be an entertainment destination and there are smaller sized "mom and pop" operations that give the community its local personality. To name a few.
Troy DeRego of DeRego's Breads has created something truly special in the variety of the "mom and pop" store. After selling his bread out of his home at the community market for a couple of years, Troy opened his bakery on Main Street in Starkville a year ago. Like any new business, as he worked his way through the first year, he made changes to the menu and the hours.
For a while he was serving lunch and breakfast pizzas and sandwiches. All of which were well received. But Troy is a creative man, who discovered he really didn't want to run a restaurant. Possessing the soul of an artisan, he wanted to create. And so he did.
His experimentation with his product line became a what-if, serendipity story.
As Troy tells it, his bread making business includes a lot of sourdough production. For the sourdough neophyte, that production of the yeast and bacteria that creates sourdough is the oldest of the leavened breads originating from Egypt a couple of thousand years ago.
It aids in digestion and has a long shelf life, but most importantly it tastes magical.
For the purposes of our story, it is a living organism that actually grows and increases in volume. Long story short: Troy didn't want to leave the leftovers from his bread production growing in the trash, so he tried baking them. Voila! Let there be crackers! And there were crackers. Troy saw they were good; and he shared them with the rest of us.
The result was a little taste of heaven in Starkville.
Troy has turned his full-time bakery and part-time restaurant into a mostly cracker producing hub with breads and pastries on his non-cracker days. He has set up subscriptions for his wares during the time when the community market isn't operating.
I think it deserves to become a nationally distributed product. Apparently I am not the only one who feels this way. According to Troy, local demand is almost outpacing his ability to produce. This is with little marketing. It is a mixed blessing: to expand or not to expand, that is now the question.
How do we as a community help our friend and neighbor be all he can be. Do we put him with the right people, do we invest in his future, do we lend him moral support or just keep the demand up for his product as we convince our neighbors to try his product and patronize his business.
Maybe the answer is all of the above.
Starkville has nurtured some impressive culinary talents of late. Professional chefs, young and old, a biscuit maker extraordinaire and now a bread maker/cracker entrepreneur. Troy is one who has the product with a fairly long shelf life that can and should if he wants easily expand well past our city limits.
There may be grand opportunities for us to begin a line of products that builds from DeRego's crackers to who knows what.
The Yokohama, Flexsteel, Southwire and Paccar projects make a tidal-wave-size splash when they land in your community. Those projects are undeniably game changing, but in our amazement at their breadth we need to remember the importance of the ripples the small business owner creates.
Those ripples may not awe and amaze, but they make us identify as part of something that is our community's character and personality. It is also a pretty good bet that at one time those businesses that are now industries were operating out of someone's garage or kitchen rippling through their own respective communities.
Lynn Spruill, a former commercial airline pilot, elected official and city administrator owns and manages Spruill Property Management in Starkville. Her email address is [email protected]
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