Suburban investor spices up new career
Mike Brindza of Downers Grove spent his career in the financial industry, including about 30 years with the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Chicago Board of Trade.
But after the Merc went public in 2002 and merged with the Board of Trade, and other industry changes happened, Brindza recently decided it was time to leave. Just over a year ago, he decided it was time for a change.
"It was just time to move on," said Brindza, 51. "There were a lot of changes in the futures industry and what we were doing was antiquated."
But he didn't stay retired for long.
His friend, Don Mazzoni, is a real estate developer and told him about All Spice Cafe, a line of hot sauces based in Venice, California. He shared what he knew about the business. Mazzoni introduced Brindza to Buddy Feldman, 80, of Highland Park and a Vita Foods salesman and marketing veteran. They talked about bringing the cafe's hot sauce to the Midwest.
About a year ago, they became investors behind the hot sauce and began introducing the line to various stores. The line includes four varieties that are now sold in about 600 stores, including Mariano's, Jewel Osco and others in Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri, Ohio, Michigan and Texas. It's also in Whole Foods stores in Airzona, Hawaii and Nevada. They aim to build it into a national brand.
The partners established an office in Oak Brook with a distribution warehouse in Elk Grove Village. They plan to move their packing and bottling operations from Tennessee to Franklin Park. They also work with KeHE Distributors LLC in Naperville, Brindza said.
They worked closely with Chef J.D. Cowles, 57, who was named Best Hot Sauce Maker by Los Angeles Magazine and created the sauces at his restaurant.
While the hot sauce category is highly competitive, Brindza is confident their product is different. While there are various types of hot sauces using vinegar and pepper, he said their product is in a niche category. All Spice Cafe offers a hybrid of spice and heat with the flavor of a barbecue sauce.
"It bridges the gap (of types) and stands out," he said.
Brindza said he's invested in other things over the years, but this time it's different. Now, he's involved closely with the business, although he admits he didn't know much about hot sauces.
"It's one thing to be just an investor and quite another to also have some oversight and run the company. I have been enjoying myself building a business and being hands on and being involved in the day-to-day activities. Sure I was a little nervous getting into an industry that I didn't know anything about. But Buddy is a sound grocery man and I took a leap of faith."
Dad-daughter team up
John and Jessie O'Brien, a father-and-daughter partnership, started OneUp Automotive Inc. in Barrington to recruit sales and marketing professionals for the automotive industry. Their company recently had its grand opening and offered tours of where they train recruits to prepare for the automotive workforce.
Traveling downstate for solar program
Shannon Fulton, president of the Illinois Solar Energy Association in Elk Grove Village and other industry executives will talk about Illinois's Solar Renewable Energy Credit Program and other topics at the first Carbondale Solar Conference on Sept. 24 in Carbondale, Illinois.
Michael McCarthy starts Monday as the new vice president of merchandising and inventory at Sears Hometown and Outlet Stores Inc. in Hoffman Estates. ... Jeffery Mowery, managing partner of Mowery & Schoenfeld LLC in Lincolnshire, said his firm has been named as one of the 2015 Accounting Today's Best Accounting Firms to Work For. It was the fifth consecutive year. ... Timothy Schauer, an Addison resident and assistant professor in the College of Business & Management at DeVry University, presented research that was included in DeVry University's biannual Journal of Scholarly Research. His article focused on effective marketing communication channels for nonprofits targeting millennial donors.
Tom Park has been appointed as president of Kenmore, Craftsman & DieHard, the iconic brands business unit at Sears Holdings Corp. in Hoffman Estates. ... Kevin Poorten, president & CEO of KishHealth System in DeKalb, has received the Grassroots Champions Award from the American Hospital Association in Naperville for leadership in generating support for the hospital community. ... Dave Ryan, managing principal of Walker Parking Consultants in Elgin, was awarded a spot in National Parking Association's 40 Under 40.
Yolanda M. King, Naperville resident and Northern Illinois University College of Law associate professor, will be a panelist at a copyright symposium at Columbia Law School on Oct. 2. ... Kevin G. Drendel, an attorney at Drendel & Jansons Law Group, garnered the 2015 Donna Dallesasse Award from the Batavia Chamber of Commerce. The chamber each year honors a member that is dedicated to the mission of the chamber. ... Sherry Chris, CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, cut the ribbon at firm on Barron Boulevard in Grayslake. About 300 people attended.
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