Monday, Jun 25, 2018
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Grumpy's dressing is perfect balance of sweet, salty


Jennifer Shemak, center, who created the award-winning poppy-seed dressing, is flanked by Sara Bauman, left, and Dustin Hostetler, right at Grumpy's.

The Blade/Amy E. Voigt
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At Grumpy's restaurant downtown, one dish outsells all the others, combined.

Despite an extensive menu, the Garbage Salad, a mix of lettuce, grilled chicken, cheese, raisins, and much more represents about 70 percent of the popular breakfast-and-lunch spot's total lunchtime sales.

The reason for the popularity isn't a secret: "The key to it is the poppy-seed dressing," said Dustin Hostetler, one of the restaurant's co-owners.

Grumpy's is a family affair. Sisters Sara Bauman and Jennifer Shemak run it with Mr. Hostetler, who is their nephew. They took over the business a year and a half ago from Jeff and the late Connie Horn -- the sisters' parents and Mr. Hostetler's grandparents -- who first began selling food in a corner of their hardware store in the 1980s.


The food quickly became the focus, and the hardware store fell to the wayside, though its sign is still prominently displayed in the restaurant.

The poppy-seed dressing was a star almost from the moment it was introduced. About 20 years ago, a customer asked Ms. Shemak, who is the chef, to make a poppy-seed dressing for him.

Last week, that dressing was one of the winners of an award from the Center for Innovative Food Technology, which helps small entrepreneurs bring their food-related products to the market.

The dressing is "a perfect balance of sweet and salty, and it coats things wonderfully," Mr. Hostetler said. It is so popular that customers have been asking for it for years. If they begged hard enough, he said, they would sell them some in a Styrofoam cup.

After some experimentation -- will this work in a Mason jar? -- the restaurant began selling the bottled dressing from behind the cash register a few weeks ago. The award from CIFT will give them help with packaging, marketing, distribution, and navigating federal regulations.

"The hope and goal is to get this into grocery stores," Mr. Hostetler said. "Obviously, first locally and regionally, and then nationally if we can."

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