By Holly Hammersmith | Photo by Laura Watilo Blake
The Cleveland native helped launched Collective Upcycle, a pop-up boutique. She has taught at Lorain County Community College and has directed marketing and events for a hospitality firm. Her latest brainchild is DistinctCLE, a subscription box idea that uses locally sourced goods.
“Every season you get this crate, and it’s a discovery, but it’s also the latest and greatest food products coming out of Cleveland,” Krueger, founder and co-owner of DistinctCLE, says.
DistinctCLE is working with small batchers, such as the Runcible Spoon jams, Brighton Wool & Honey Co., Rhino Pottery, Crooked River Coffee Co., Hillson Nut Company, The Olive and The Grape, Bonbon Pastry & Cafe baking mixes, and new spice mixes from local chef Doug Katz.
Most items are sourced from a 100-mile radius of Cleveland, with the exception of a few products that the pair has not been able to find locally. Those non-local products will not be mainstays, Krueger says.
While the idea for this foodie subscription box was simmering in the back of Krueger’s mind for several years, it wasn’t until she found her perfect business partner and now co-owner of DistinctCLE – Danielle Gura – that the idea took off.
Krueger brings marketing, sales, and networking experience to the DistinctCLE brand. Gura brings technical business acumen to the table. Together the duo hopes to storm the market with a series of ideas.
Following the initial launch of DistinctCLE, which went live April 15, Krueger says the pair plans to have a DistinctCLE pop-up shop, a create-your-own-crate clinic, corporate gift-giving options, and even quarterly dinners at local restaurants to highlight items in the crates.
The idea for DistinctCLE arose when Krueger was doing sales and marketing work with Edible Cleveland, a magazine committed to bringing attention to the people and stories within Northeast Ohio’s local food community. Through that role, Krueger says she met a lot of entrepreneurs in the food industry, and in return began to understand their plight.
“They have a hard time finding distribution. They are not always accepted into Heinen’s and Giant Eagle and Whole Foods, so they have to go to all these farmers markets to try and get recognition,” Krueger says. “At farmers markets they are probably only seeing a couple hundred people a week. We’re kind of trying to leverage them to help them get a little recognition once they reach that plateau.”
The pair hits farmers markets in Northeast Ohio and work out wholesale agreements with vendors to feature their goods in the crates. Vendors are also found through word of mouth and networking, Krueger says.
“We are a service, but we are also marketing,” she says.
DistinctCLE offers a means to get these lesser-known products in front of consumers. Each crate comes with a recipe card with a suggestion on how to use the product, and a note about the vendor, Krueger says.
Each DistinctCLE crate carries a story in itself. The crates, which resemble wine boxes, are handmade by Krueger and Gura. The wood for the crates comes from the Ohio River and is locally milled in Norton. The co-owners assemble the crates and burn the DistinctCLE logo on the outside.
Krueger says DistinctCLE is self-funded. “So we are really jumping off a cliff,” she says.
The subscription side of DistinctCLE offers consumers one crate per quarter for a fee of $400 per year. Each crate features eight to 12 products.
In addition to food items, Krueger says DistinctCLE works with local artists to include culinary art gifts to accompany the products. The company has also applied for a beer and wine license, which once approved, will allow DistinctCLE to offer alcoholic beverages in the crates. Non-alcoholic beverages also can be found in the crates, Krueger says.
In addition, DistinctCLE offers specialty crates that can be purchased at any time, for about $75 to $100 each, and without subscription for gifts, such as, for Mother’s Day. The “Spread the Love” crate features whipped honey, homemade jam and fruit butter, a biscuit mix and heirloom seeds. Other specialty crate ideas will include a barbecue theme and another “party” box featuring locally made bitters, syrups, and drink mixers.
“We really want to make sure people are getting the best of the best,” Krueger says. “When we order the products from each small-batch entrepreneur we are turning around and shipping that within a week. We really want to make sure it’s straight from their kitchen to yours.”
Who buys DistinctCLE? Most customers will be in their upper 30s to lower 50s, Krueger says.
“(These are people) that like going out to eat, that like going to the farmers markets, or going to fun food events to discover new things and people that do spend a little bit more money on their groceries,” Krueger says.
For more information: distinctcle.com
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