Updated: October 9, 2013 at 7:47 am
About 15 years ago, Papa Joe's Little Chalet Dressing disappeared from the market, disappointing thousands of taste buds in the Colorado Springs region that had fallen in love with the creamy Italian concoction first served at the long-shuttered Swiss Chalet restaurant on Pikes Peak Avenue.
But Papa Joe's grandson, Dan Reich, remained nostalgic for the deliciousness he'd helped to manufacture as a kid.
"It was so good I used to drink it straight from the bottle," Reich would tell his kids.
He, and other fans of the dressing, are getting their chance to do it again. Reich recently reintroduced Papa Joe's Little Chalet Dressing to the marketplace, starting small with a few stores, with hopes of expanding to others, including Whole Foods and King Soopers.
Reich's story is more than just a tale of a food product reborn, however. When Reich decided to reintroduce his grandfather's popular product, he knew he needed help from business partners and suppliers, and hoped to follow his grandfather's example of supporting local companies. He had no idea that his decision would take him into familiar territory.
Nearly a year ago, Reich worked with a local business incubator, Vision Foods, to create and bottle his first production runs of Little Chalet Dressing. For labels, Vision Foods directed Reich to Flextec, a local label manufacturer that recently invested in digital technology, allowing the company to offer more economical services to entrepreneurs at the startup stage.
When Flextec owner Rocky Rahija sat down with Reich to discuss labeling requirements, Rahija paused: The name "Reich" sounded familiar. He asked Reich if his grandfather was Joe Reich.
"That's when a chill went through my spine," said the younger Reich. As it turns out, Rahija had produced the labels for the original Papa Joe's Little Chalet Dressing.
"It was as if my grandfather was directing me to this meeting," said Reich. Not only was Flextec the historical supplier of the labels for Papa Joe's Little Chalet Dressing, it was now positioned to fulfill the growing needs of Reich's entrepreneurial venture.
"It was like it was destined to be," said Rahija.
Reich had certain ideas of what he wanted for the label, and Rahija delivered.
"We had a popular historic brand that had been off the market for over 15 years, and needed to bring the marketing into the modern era," Reich said. "We had some really specific ideas of what we wanted, including paying tribute to the feel and design of the old label, and adding some purple color for 'purple mountain's majesty'. We also had an old photo of my grandfather, 'Papa Joe,' we wanted to use on the label."
When the quality of the photo image was insufficient, Flextec's art department sketched a likeness of "Papa Joe" that worked.
Papa Joe's Little Chalet Dressing began life as "house dressing" at the Swiss Chalet restaurant, and eventually generated more revenue than the restaurant itself. In the mid-1950's, the restaurant closed, but the dressing lived on through commercial production that began in the basement of the Colorado National Bank building.
Sales of the dressing continued to grow until Papa Joe's death, when no one in the family was positioned to take over the business. The product disappeared from the market.
After repeated attempts, Reich persuaded his uncle to share the secret recipe for the dressing and began serving it at family gatherings. Many of his family members and friends recognized the taste of their old favorite, and urged Reich to consider bringing the dressing back commercially.
Reich's wife, Michelle, loves that Flextec can be part of the Little Chalet Dressing story again.
"Flextec is a hidden gem here in Colorado Springs," Michelle said. "They have produced a spectrum of labels for nationwide companies, and these are the same people that were able to do this for Papa Joe. The huge advantage we have by being able to pop in on a moment's notice and say 'Hey, what do you think about this?' is insane."
Flextec has been in business since 1995, although Rahija has been in the industry for more than 40 years. He explained how new technology allows him to better serve startups like Reich's.
"Over the course of the last 10 years or so, the digital workflow has really played a big role in advancing new technologies, allowing customers to reduce or eliminate inventories because of the speed of digital converting. It accelerates speed to market."
Reich has been working to broaden distribution of Little Chalet Dressing, meeting with representatives from Whole Foods Markets and King Soopers. Until then, the dressing is available at another Colorado Springs favorite, Patsy's Candies, and three other shops. Prices vary by location.
Where to buy Papa Joe's Little Chalet Dressing
- Patsy's Candies, 1540 S. 21st Street
- Spencer's Lawn & Garden, 1430 S. Tejon St.
- Benet Hill Monastery, 3190 Benet Lane
- Freedom Foods Co-Op, 1625 W. Uintah Street
- Nourish Organic Juice, 303 E. Pikes Peak Avenue
- Online at www.littlechaletdressing.com
For more information on Flextec, go to www.flextec.net