A Business Michele Tsucalas Started in Her Kitchen in 2006 Now Supplies 800-Plus Sites in 34 States
A delectable granola bar that Michele Tsucalas savored at a Martha’s Vineyard bakery one summer 18 years ago changed the course of her life.
“Freshly made, ‘from-scratch’ products were hard to come by at that time, especially in grocery stores, and I was really moved by the quality of the ingredients and the delicious flavors,” she says.
She began experimenting in her home kitchen, mixing up small batches using organic and all-natural ingredients as gifts for friends and family.
“Everyone told me, ‘You should sell this!’” Michele says.
And so, in 2006 she secured a spot at the Takoma Park Farmer’s Market, selling on Sundays while still working full-time as a fundraiser in downtown D.C.
“I learned so much about the local food movement from the farmers and other producers I met at Takoma Park, and at the same time I gained a loyal following for my products,” she says.
Before long, one local co-op asked to sell her granola, then another. In 2007, Michele left her fundraising career to devote her full-time energy to building a granola business—and she hasn’t looked back.
Today, Michele’s Granola products are available in 800-plus retail locations and food service facilities in 34 states, including Whole Food Markets, Wegmans, MOM’s Organic Market and The Fresh Market.
The 36 employees in Michele’s production facility in Lutherville prepare more than 20,000 pounds of granola weekly.
“We bake and package every bag by hand in small batches,” she says.
In addition to six varieties offered year-round (including Cinnamon Raisin and Almond Butter), Michele’s Granola also offers Toasted Muesli, using maple syrup provided by a local farmer.
Relying on all-natural, GMO-free ingredients remains crucial to Michele, as does being a good steward to the environment—her facility is powered with 100 percent wind power, and 80 percent of waste is recycled or composted—and to the wider community. Michele’s Granola, which employs three people from the Arc, won the 2018 Baltimore County Commission on Disabilities Employer of the Year Award.
“When you’re part of a growing business, nothing ever settles into a routine,” Michele says. “I’m the CEO and the CFO, and I still spend some time in the kitchen. Managing different roles is all part of sustaining a small-batch operation.”
1940 Greenspring Drive Suite G, Timonium