Paul Guglielmo Interview
(Paul Guglielmo’s pasta sauce)
In the spring of 2014, with the USDA approval in hand, Paul Guglielmo was set to show the world what pasta sauce should really tastes like.
July 2014 found Paul making the rounds of supermarkets marketing his pasta sauce.
To date, he has 70 stores that stock his sauce, a sauce with his name on it, and get this his phone number on it as well!!
How often do you see that? Try never.
Paul Guglielmo has quite a story to tell about what it takes for an entrepreneur to compete in today’s business world.
Q - I saw your sauce for the very first time on the shelf at Wegmans. How big of a deal is it for you to have your pasta sauce on the shelf at Wegmans?
A - It is the single biggest moment since I started this business, Wegmans. I am in a lot of little mom-and-pop stores here and there all through central and western New York. Every single one of them is important to me. I don’t want to downplay any of them but Wegmans was without a doubt the biggest deal of all of them because that’s like sacred lamb. That shelf space is like the Holy Grail, Wegmans. They have a very high standards. So, the fact that they looked at my product, liked how it looked, liked how it tasted enough to put it on their shelves. It was really the first time that I felt truly justified, like wow! Maybe I actually did create something good here. It was wow! Maybe I’m up to something here.
Q - I don’t want to come across as negative here, but, they put your sauce not at eye level, but on the very bottom shelf. To get your sauce on a higher shelf means you would have to pay money?
A - Not exactly. I’ll tell you my deal. I started off in the Rochester area Wegmans only. I wasn’t anywhere else. Just Rochester, because that’s where I’m from, that’s where I’m based. I started off on the bottom shelf of Rochester. I was actually on the second two bottom shelf. Every once in a while and I don’t know why they do it because I’m not an expert, but as far as Wegmans go, every once in a while they do what they call category review which means they take particular category and they just see what selling well, what’s not selling well, what new one do they want to bring in. Do they maybe want to drop one to put in its place? When they do that that’s when you might have the opportunity to move up. So, in Rochester, my first category review I got moved up. Each and every store in Rochester is a little bit different. There are a few where I’m at eye level and I have the whole shelf, like Pittsford and East Avenue. It’s ridiculous. I look at it and I can’t even believe it. And then there’s some where I’m still second to the bottom. I think its tailor fitted to which stores are you hot in and which stores are you not. But I am even in a couple of stores where they’ve given me and caps. Now, Syracuse is a different animal after I’d done really well in Rochester for a while, I got myself a meeting at Wegmans corporate. I asked if I could be in more stores. I’m pitching them hey, it did really well here, let’s see something else. They said, I’ll tell you what why don’t we try Syracuse. And so that’s where I’m at right now. So, I guess I should have expected there I am right at the bottom again. All I can do is hope it sells well and may be I’ll get the opportunity to move up there as well.
Q - Is your sauce being carried in all Syracuse Wegmans stores?
A - Yes. It’s currently in all Rochester, Syracuse, Finger Lakes and Southern tier states.
Q - Being based out of Rochester, New York means your pasta sauce is primarily sold in New York State?
A - Well, yeah. That’s where I started. That’s where I live. That’s where the business is based. I started as small as you can. I literally started walking into locally owned shops with a couple of jars of sauce asking to meet the owner, giving him or her a jar of sauce and then calling him back in a week saying did you like it? (Laughs). In Rochester is where the highest concentration of stores is right now. My current job as I move into my second year of business is to become a bigger presence in Buffalo and Syracuse. That’s my real focus for my second year of business.
Q - Have you tried getting restaurants to buy your sauce?
A - I’ve tried restaurants and I’ve gotten into a few. There’s only two right now that use my sauce regularly. I’ve had a couple other restaurants that have used it just for a special, like where they use it for a week or a weekend. But, there are only two who use it regularly. Personally, I haven’t put a huge push on restaurants. I probably should. That’s definitely something I probably should do. But, at this point, or at least in my first year, my major focus has been to us on retail groceries. I wanted to get it there. That was my greatest chance. I know what I really needed to do was to make the public aware of it, become familiar with it and turn it into a brand people would know. I thought the best way of doing that would be the grocery store shelf.
Q - How about the New York State fair? Have you tried getting your product in there?
A - Yeah. It’s the pride of New York tent. I just actually applied to and got accepted into pride of New York. I don’t think I got in in time to be in the fair this year (2015). I got my thing in the mail saying I was certified pride of New York, but, that’s 100% something I want to do next year. In fact, fairs and festivals are my favorite. I do as many as I can. It’s just a huge deal for a couple of reasons: one, you can get to meet so many people and two, you get to give free samples. So, the hardest part of this whole thing is getting somebody to try the sauce for the first time. Everyone’s a little weary. I already have my sauce. I know what sauce I already buy. But, can you just try this one? That’s like the single hardest part of the whole job, getting people to try it. So giving out those free samples to thousands of people at festivals has proven to be probably the most effective marketing in the entire business so far.
Q - Now the strange part of what Wegman’s does, is to put their own bottled pasta sauce upfront where you first enter the store, and sell it for $.99 a jar. How can a guy like you compete with that?
A - I don’t even try to. I can’t even make my sauce for $.99 a jar. You know what; it’s just two different worlds. I figure it this way, I know there is a certain percent of the population and I think it’s a big percent of the population who is going to do exactly what you’re thinking. They’re going to go to that aisle and grab the cheap one. They’re trying to save money. They’re not going to spend six, seven, eight dollars on a jar of sauce. I get that. I’ve been there. I’ve absolutely been there, but, I do think there is a percent of the population. I think it’s a minority. I don’t think it’s a majority. I think it’s a minority who will spend more because they perceive it as being a better quality. In fact, I think you’ll find with my sauce and Patsy sauce and most of those sauces in that particular sector at Wegmans, but they are a higher-quality sauce. What I mean by that is were using natural ingredients, things like actual garlic instead of garlic powder, actual onions instead of onion salt, tomatoes instead of tomato purée. It is a different product. I think there is percent of the population that knows that and will go with that higher-quality albeit smaller percent of the population. I get it. The majority wants the cheap one. Hopefully there are enough people out there to keep me and Patsy’s alive.
Q - You started with only one flavor the marinara sauce. Why that flavor?
A - Well, that’s part of the reason I started the whole business. Truthfully, my grandfather ment the world to me. I grew up in an Italian family. Every Sunday of my entire life, like we Italians tend to do we all congregated over at grandpa’s house for sauce. My grandfather made just a standard marinara sauce, like the depression era influenced sauce. It was all things you could grow in your garden at some point in this climate throughout the year. It’s got peppers, and tomatoes and onions and garlic, basil, parsley, oregano. Those kinds of things and so the original recipe is that marinara sauce. That’s my grandfather’s true sauce. Eventually I got to point where it was going very well. People were buying it like crazy. I was doing as I mentioned before festivals, events. I was meeting a lot of people and people were asking me quite often, do you have any other flavors? Is this the only thing you have? I would just ask the question back. This is all we have. What would you like? What are you interested in? I basically took that feedback and created the third flavor which is the Roma flavor which is the creamy, cheesy one and then the spicy, chunky veggie sauce also was sort of a second one where a lot of people were interested in nutrition facts. I said I think I can do this very healthy. I didn’t use any refined sugar. I didn’t use any salt. I essentially created a jar full of vegetable. So, anyway that’s where those two came along. The reason I started with marinara is because that’s what I grew up with. I just grew up with grandpa’s marinara sauce. That’s what’s in that jar.
Q - Those three flavors are not on store shelves yet are they?
A - They are, but not in every store. A lot of times the store will just start with the marinara sauce to see how it’s going and then if it goes well they’ll bring in the other flavors. So, if you were to go into Wegmans in Rochester you would see all flavors. In Syracuse unfortunately at this point I’m still trying to prove myself. Hopefully eventually, they’ll take on all four. It also depends sometimes on the size of the store.
Q - Do you advertise?
A - I do. I do radio. My actual job is on the radio. That’s what I do for a living in Rochester. I advertise in Syracuse on WSYR with Bob Longsberry. Then I also advertise on Facebook, social media.
Q - What do you do on radio? Play records? Interview people?
A - I do a bunch of different stuff actually. In Syracuse I am on hot 107.9 in the morning. I do the local fill in stuff. There is a nationally syndicated show on 107.9 called Elvis Duran and the morning show. They are the talk show you would hear if you tuned in and then you’ll hear music. In between the music you’ll have someone come on and do a local segment where they’ll say something like hey, were from Syracuse. Don’t forget to come down to sky Armory tonite. That would be me. I’m that guy. In Rochester I do a little bit more. I do the same thing on our top 40 station. I’m also a producer and cohost of a talk show in Rochester. I host a boogie talk show on the weekends in Rochester and then I also do nights on a classic radio station in Rochester. Some of it is recorded and some of it is live.
Official website: www.guglielmosauce.com
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