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Ten years ago, Janet McDonald and Cindy Utecht labored over their first gift basket. It was beautiful, even if it was constructed inside McDonald’s garage.
It was an order that came while the two entrepreneurs were peddling their wares at the Edmond farmers’ market.
Now, 18-wheelers deliver product to an off-site warehouse the duo rents each winter to fill the thousands of orders that pour into Gourmet Gallery, an Edmond-based gourmet and specialty food store.
And if you ask the former Edmond Area Chamber of Commerce employees what’s gotten them this far, they’ll tell you it’s because they still give each and every basket the same attention as that first one.
“It makes us feel good to know we have created a business that has continued to grow every year for 10 years,” Utecht says.
The two started small, offering a line of salsas, marinated vegetables and stuffed olives at the farmers’ market. That went so well, they set a couple of gift baskets on the tables.
“Everybody would ask us where our store was,” Utecht says. “We were ready for a change.”
The original Gourmet Gallery, 1532 S. Boulevard in Edmond, opened exactly one week after 9/11. Four years ago, a second location was added at 2820 N.W. 122nd Street. That Northpark Mall location quickly became too small, so a 2,000-square-foot location was secured nearby.
“It’s still scary,” McDonald says of the venture. “Don’t kid yourself. It’s not for the weak at heart, for sure. I don’t think we really thought about it too much. We were pretty confident, and the response was great, so [there] wasn’t anything to discourage us really.”
Utecht admits it was more perspiration than inspiration.
“When you really want to do something different and make a change, you work hard,” she says.
Gourmet Gallery boasts more than 200 corporate clients that order gift baskets ranging from $25 to $500 filled with both imported and local meats, cheeses, wines and other items.
People keep asking McDonald and Utecht when they’re going to open another store, but it’s not in the cards.
“Our plan is to go more regional,” Utecht says. “We have a mailing service and a delivery service.”
“There’s no reason that when someone goes online for a gift basket that they shouldn’t be ordering from us,” McDonald says.
The fourth quarter is when things really get hopping at Gourmet Gallery. Product orders are placed in August, and items begin rolling in around September and October.
The company grows from 10 employees to nearly 40 in November; and in December, 12-hour days, seven-day weeks become the norm, as some 30% of Gourmet Gallery’s gross revenue comes in during the holiday months.
And that number could be a little higher this year.
Gourmet Gallery was featured as a wedding favor idea in the October issue of Martha Stewart Weddings magazine.
McDonald says her company also is used extensively by companies that want out-of-town job applicants or important guests to have something special at their hotels.
“We feel like nobody does this as good as we do,” she says.
Photo by Mark Hancock