McClary’s Old Time Drinking Vinegars
Drinking Vinegars, commonly referred to as “Shrubs,” are a Colonial-era drink mixer combining organic, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar with fresh, seasonal ingredients and organic cane sugar. The result is a refreshing, exciting mixer that we know you will enjoy as a cocktail or shrub soda (non-alcoholic). “I’ve had to design all of these recipes from scratch – which means they aren’t all winners.” Successful flavors include Lemon & Ginger, Apple Pie, Detroit Thai Basil, Cranberry and Pineapple-Fennel. Several tested flavors never came to fruition, but new ones were regularly being developed.”
Jess McClary first founded McClary Bros. as McClary Bros. Bakehouse – a home based bakery. Baking was something she had always been comfortable doing and her husband suggested she just make some products and sell them at a local farmers’ market, just to see what would happen.” The bakehouse grew steadily and many of the products were made with seasonal Michigan produce. “Even then, Jess always sourced local. That’s arguably the one thing that she is most stubborn about, buying local. She want to shake the hand that picks the fruit.”
Over time, Jess grew to dislike the unhealthy aspects of the baking. She wanted to showcase the local flavors, but in a healthier presentation. “I did a lot of research into old-fashioned preservation techniques, and when I found Drinking Vinegars (“shrubs”), I had a light bulb moment. I knew I’d found the answer, even if no one yet believed me!”
1. In what year did your company begin operation?
2012 . All of our vinegars are manufactured at Forgotten Harvest, the metro Detroit food rescue. Using a new program designed to bring “profits” to their nonprofit called “Hopeful Harvest,” our partnership with them aids their efforts to serve more meals and provide more resources to the region. Through Workforce Development programs, individuals handcrafting our products are being retrained in food manufacturing.
2. How long did your initial roll-out for the above product line take (months or years?) and how much did it cost? ($5,000? $20,000?) What kind of funding was available to you other than a Shark Tank investment? Did alternative funding materialize after your appearance on Shark Tank?
We spent about 6 months perfecting the product and branding. In the initial stages we spent about $25,000. As we grew, we took out a few small business loans, the largest of which was a $40,000 microloan from the Michigan Women’s Foundation, a CDFI (Community Development Financial Institutions).
3. Please describe the long term benefits and any drawbacks resulting from your Shark Tank appearance?
Our appearance on Shark Tank generated a tremendous amount of attention and interest. It has allowed me to expand my staff from a team of 3 to a team of 6. We are able to open doors that were previously inaccessible. Our show aired a second time 3 weeks after the initial airing and I’ve yet to see any drawbacks to being on Shark Tank.
4. How do you define success? Are you there yet? Did the Shark Tank experience add to your success?
McClary Bros. has been the only thing providing a living for my family for over two years. I’ve been able to provide living wages for 4 staff members. McClary Bros. has supported dozens of local farmers by providing steady, reliable supply needs.
McClary Bros. is an example of how to “bootstrap” your way to success, even when you start you business from your kitchen. My appearance on Shark Tank is simply another example of the drive and vision I have for McClary Bros. and it has certainly added to our success.
But success is not a finish line, it’s a fluid, evolving concept. I’ve far exceeded the expectations I had set for myself a year ago. Now I’ll turn around and do it again next year. Success is always just ahead of you, it’s the proverbial carrot.
5. How do you define your “vision”? Where do you want to be in 5 or 10 years?
McClary Bros. has grown and widened so rapidly; it is hard for me to hold my vision to a timeline. Rather, I want to keep spreading our brand, building our business on the quality and inventiveness that our fans have come to expect.
I have new ideas in R&D but have yet to decide what is actually going to move us forward. It’s a very exciting time!
6. Did you participate in the 2015 Winter Fancy Food Show in January in San Francisco? If yes, what was your total investment (booth, travel, etc?)
We did not. We did participate in the National Restaurant Association Show in 2015. Our total investment was $6000.
McClary Bros. Vinegars
Contact: Jess Sanchez McClary
32621 Grand River Avenue
Farmington, MI 48336
email: Inquiries@mcclarybros.com; Website: mcclarybros.com