Thursday, September 06, 2007

A Rare Find In Walla Walla

Before Kris Reed was tall enough to reach a kitchen counter, she loved food and cooking. Her major in college was hospitality and she later attended chef’s school. Along came a family and Kris discovered that the food/hospitality industry and raising a family did not mix. While her family was growing, Kris entered Seattle’s hi-tech industry and soon became part of corporate America. After living in Seattle for many years, Kris needed more sunshine and decided it was time to move to a smaller town. While visiting Walla Walla during a wine tasting weekend, she knew where she needed to be.

Once her children were grown and out of the house, Kris was able to return to her first love - - food. Out of that love Kris founded Rare Finds, an online store that provided a year-round outlet for small artisan food producers, who are often limited to seasonal farmer’s markets and small food events. Rare Foods Inc.Com was so successful that Kris took her business to the next obvious, but giant, step and opened up a retail location on Main Street in Walla Walla.

Now that Rare Finds Inc. is planted on Main Street, Kris is going to let the business grow organically based on customer requests. She delights in calling a customer to let them know she has found the long lost favorite food product that they have been searching for. Rare Finds gets constant requests for Walla Walla Sweet Onion products so Kris is adding a line called Walla Walla Gourmet Kitchen featuring, Walla Walla Sweet Onions, of course. Corporate and individual gift baskets are a large business for Kris. Eventually, she will add wines to their online business. She feels that Rare Finds, Inc. occupies a unique space in the food market as it crosses many lines into a gourmet food store, grocery store and health food store. Her goal is to find the very best products produced by people who are passionate about food like she is. Local ingredients and cooking in small batches is equally important as it means healthier foods without all the additives and preservatives. And she is also getting requests from customers who have food allergies. While she is not a health food store, she does believe that the chocolate covered potato chips found in her store produces good mental health to those who eat them. Yum! My kind of health food!

Some of Kris's favorite products are the finishing sauces from Bittersweet Herb Farm, oils and vinegars from Hare Hollow, and Coastal Seasonings spice blends to name a few. Kris has been in Walla Walla now for two years and her store hours are Tuesday - Friday from 10:30 – 5:30 and Saturday from 11 – 5. Kris says she is addicted to the town, its people and wants to see her business expand so it can provide more living wage jobs for Walla Walla. The best part of Rare Finds? The personal attention Kris provides.

(The last couple weeks I have received so many compliments on Kris's recipe I posted in the August "Cooking Through The Walla Walla Grape Vine." If you haven't tried her Walla Walla Onion Pie, I recommend it. I discovered, along with others, what a versatile recipe it was. As an example, I didn't have any Gruyere cheese and used Fontina instead. Another person said they used lamb instead of sausage and discovered what an interesting pairing it made with the sprinkle of nutmeg. I also heard of some different, but great Walla Walla wine pairings to go with. If you haven't tried this recipe - - do!)

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