Authors: Susan Axelrod
“When Love and Quiches started in 1973, my restaurant, O’Neals’ Baloon, was the very first to serve Susan’s quiche. The rest is history, and I highly recommend reading her interesting story.”
—MICHAEL O’NEAL, famed New York City restaurateur
“Susan Axelrod cooks up a fun and fast-paced tell-all on building Love and Quiches from home-kitchen start-up to international powerhouse. A must-read for any aspiring entrepreneur who wonders whether passion alone can make up for what you didn’t learn in business school.”
—JOHN KOMINICKI, author and former president and publisher of
Long Island Business News
“I remember buying Love and Quiches products back in the 1970s while Susan was still baking in her kitchen and delivering out of the trunk of her car. I recommend this book for any aspiring entrepreneur.”
—BUZZ O’KEEFFE, proprietor of The River Café
“Empowering. Every smart businesswoman should own a copy of
With Love and Quiches
—JEAN GATZ, keynote speaker and award-winning author of
10 Ways to Stand Out from the Crowd
“Susan Axelrod has truly achieved the American dream of turning her passion into a thriving, multinational business success story, and her book brims with savvy dos and don’ts to help other aspiring entrepreneurs follow in her footsteps.”
—NANCY KRUSE, contributing editor at
Nation’s Restaurant News
“Proof that the recipe for a successful business begins with two indispensable ingredients: passion and ingenuity. Axelrod’s journey is a delight and an inspiration.”
—CARLA R. COOPER, CEO of Daymon Worldwide
“Susan is the quintessential food-preneur: creative and passionate about what she is doing, though not hardheaded. This book is recommended reading for anyone who hopes to be the next Love and Quiches and open their own successful food business. Enjoy reading her story and take her insights to heart.”
—KATHRINE GREGORY, founder and director of Mi Kitchen Es Su Kitchen
“In a book that is incredibly inspirational, well written, and engaging from beginning to end, Susan shows us that it is in fact possible to grow your passion into a booming business. While
With Love & Quiches
is undoubtedly a must-read for aspiring entrepreneurs, a savvy business owner would certainly benefit from her insightful anecdotes and unwavering determination.”
—BRIE DECHANCE, president of the National Association of Women Business Owners, Long Island chapter
Published by Greenleaf Book Group Press
Copyright 2014 Susan Axelrod
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the copyright holder.
Distributed by Greenleaf Book Group LLC
For ordering information or special discounts for bulk purchases, please contact
Greenleaf Book Group LLC at PO Box 91869, Austin, TX 78709, 512.891.6100.
Design and composition by Greenleaf Book Group LLC
Cover design by Greenleaf Book Group LLC
Ebook ISBN: 978-1-62634-072-5
To Irwin, my “stealth editor
Life is a great big canvas, and you should
throw on it all the paint you can.
hen I sold my first quiche in 1973, I had no idea that my fledgling operation would one day, decades later, be competing with the giants of the food industry. How could I have known? I was just a clueless Long Island housewife who made that first quiche in my kitchen almost on a whim. And yet here we are today: With no preparation for business ownership whatsoever, I was able to translate a passionate love of cooking and food into a multimillion-dollar family business that ships top-quality quiches and desserts to every corner of the country and now the globe.
I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into—a recurring theme during the early years of my business life—but it is an eventful story. So I’ve decided to tell it. I’m going to take you on a journey from
my kitchen, through my neighborhood, and to the global business that I have loved from day one.
My business came out of nowhere, an accident that I was not ready for. And so, for years, I would refer to it as my “accidental business.” Everything I learned was in the line of fire, and I will share it all, both the pain and the glory, laced with plenty of advice that I only wish I could have had. If there was a “how to” manual, I never got it. I had neither role models nor advisors; nobody cautioned me about the hazards involved. Looking back across the decades, I’m glad I was so innocent about those hazards; otherwise, I might have lost my courage before I truly got started. Yet, once I
get started, I knew deep inside that I was going to do this thing, that I
do this thing.
In many ways this story is a cautionary tale of what
to do when you want to start a new business. Yet here I am. I have done it. My company has become an integral and well-recognized member of the foodservice industry, serving almost every segment of the trade from hotels to airlines to multiunit chain restaurants to supermarket bakeries. We are now primarily a dessert manufacturer, and we ship our products worldwide.
So why am I telling my story now? Well, recently there was a spectacular exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum in New York called The Steins Collect, displaying the astonishing amount of art amassed by Gertrude Stein and her brothers during their years in Europe. The exhibit’s accompanying explanations were primarily focused on the Stein family and their glittering circle of compatriots, including Picasso and Matisse. One thing that Ms. Stein said resonated with me: “Somebody told me to write a book, so I wrote one.” Simple as that. I am not comparing myself to Gertrude Stein, but that is what happened to me. Our marketing department told me to tell my story, so I did.
of this story, I’ll take you on the wild ride that was the early years of my business. You’ll see some of our biggest successes as we got off the ground—and witness some pretty hilarious mistakes.
In the first chapters of
, we’ll pick the story up just after the events of 9/11, when I nearly lost the business completely. It was in the subsequent rebound that I learned some of the greatest business lessons of my career. I’ll begin sharing those lessons in short chapters in the rest of
that offer insight and advice on topics ranging from company culture, to marketing and branding, to the trials and rewards of working with family. In other words, information that any small business owner can use.
It has been an arduous journey, with hard truths and some brutal lessons. I was able to conquer them, and, for sure, I have never, ever been bored.
Would I do it all over again? Oh yes, I would. In a heartbeat.
The best way to predict your future is to create it.
was born in Bensonhurst, a Jewish and Italian neighborhood in Brooklyn, where cooking aromas constantly wafted between the tightly packed houses. Throughout my childhood, the smell of delicious food seemed to follow me around. I was nurtured in a bustling kitchen and around a heavily laden dining table—food was the vital center of our household. Looking back to those days now, I have no doubt that these early culinary experiences planted the seed of passion that eventually grew into my accidental business.
When I was three, we moved from Bensonhurst to Neponsit, an exclusive enclave within a beach community in the Rockaways. Our new home was a big, beautiful house right on the ocean, with a rolling lawn and a gate that opened right onto the beach. My mother
used to say we lived in “Neponsit, Long Island,” because she thought that sounded fancier, but Neponsit actually lies on the Queens end of the island, near the Marine Parkway Bridge to Brooklyn, from where we came. I’ve remained an inveterate New Yorker throughout my life, always living very near or in the city.
At the end of the day, you could say I was born with a silver-plated, but not quite sterling, spoon in my mouth—privileged, but not overly so. But after the move to Neponsit, we went from a comfortable existence to one that was much more upscale. For one, we had a cook, a butler, and a laundress.
The cook, Evelina, was as wide as she was tall, only she wasn’t tall, and I always smile when I picture her. I can’t think about Evelina without remembering—and almost still tasting—the best Southern fried chicken I’ve ever had, bar none. She was also a superb baker, and once a week she baked never-to-be-forgotten bread, chewy yet tender. We used to devour thick slices of the loaves and the rolls, dripping in butter just as they came out of the oven. That bread could bring tears—it was
I never had to help in the kitchen, but I watched all the time. Evelina was constantly baking cookies, and there were always two or three bowls filled with them. My mother had a few specialties too; one of them was blintzes, lightly sweetened, cheese-filled crêpes that have always been a Jewish staple. I would closely watch her cook up the delicate crêpes and lay them out on towels all over the kitchen, ready to be filled, long before Julia Child’s books (and
crêpes) became my bible.