SEATTLE -- On last December's "Favorite Things" show, audience members were screaming, pulling their hair and wiping away tears over -- macaroni and cheese?
Oprah made sure everyone in the audience got a box of frozen Beecher's Mac and Cheese. Immediately after the program aired, Kurt Beecher Dammeier owner of Beecher's Handmade Cheese, began dishing out free samples to customers at his shop at Pike Place Market.
"On a good day," he says, "we would normally sell 300 pounds of mac and cheese. In that three hours, we gave away 600 pounds of mac and cheese!"
The call for his product to appear on the "Favorite Things" show came from an Oprah producer out of the blue. "Her question was, "Would you like to have your mac and cheese on Oprah's "Favorite Things" show? Like I would say no," laughs Dammeier. The mac and cheese was judged by Oprah herself. The notoriety led to a segment on the Martha Stewart Show, which explains the posters in his shop which declare : "A good thing AND a favorite thing."
"Even people who say they heard about us on a food blog, one way that food blog heard about it was probably on Oprah," says Dammeier, a food entrepreneur whose other businesses include Pasta and Company, Maximus / Minimus pulled pork trucks and Bennett's Pure Food Restaurant on Mercer Island.
Beechers depends on what's called 'experience marketing.' People come to the store, see the cheese being made fresh, sample some fresh curds or mac and cheese and talk to the knowledgable staff. When they see the product in their local store, they buy it because they remember the experience they had. Dammeier says just 10 percent of sales are made in the store, an indication of how effective the "experience" and word of mouth are for his cheese products.
Next month, Dammeier will open a new Beecher's store in New York's Flatiron neighborhood, just a couple blocks from Union Station. "There's no question that being on Oprah's "Favorite Things" has been good for business," he concludes.