Couple concocts booming business in drink mixes


February 08, 1996|By Judy Reilly | Judy Reilly,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

SCOTT WEBB SAT IN his sunny warehouse office on Railroad Avenue in Westminster, enjoying a reprieve from the hectic Christmas retail season.

Mr. Webb and his wife, Ann, own a burgeoning business, Old World Specialties, a gourmet beverage and mix company. On the day I talked to Mr. Webb about the history of the business he and Mrs. Webb began on a shoestring in 1989, the Uniontown resident was everyone's stereotype of a entrepreneur. Dressed in blue jeans and a navy-blue sweat shirt, he sat in an office he built to oversee the warehouse operation. It wasn't that long ago that the couple worked out of their kitchen.

The Webbs' story is one many of us only dream about -- start with a money-making idea and watch it take off so well that you can quit your day job to pursue the dream full time.

Mrs. Webb was a stay-at-home mother, filled with ideas of how to earn extra money with kids underfoot. The winning idea, Old World Specialties, sprang from an instant cider mix a family friend repackaged and gave away.

The Webbs thought it looked like a marketable concept. With an original wassail recipe from Mrs. Webb's mother in Utah, calico packaging and rent for booths at local craft fairs, the product was launched.

When the couple got the opportunity to sell the product at the Maryland Christmas Show, 2,000 bags of drink mix jumped off the shelves. "We were flabbergasted we could sell so much," Mr. Webb said.

After that show, Old World Specialties was introduced to the wholesale market. "We went to three shows that summer [1990]," said Mr. Webb, "and sold more than we could make in six months."

The 20-gallon drum they used in the kitchen gave way to mass production. "Everything changed at that point," Mr. Webb said.

Mr. Webb quit his job as a landscape architect in Columbia to join his wife full time in the business. The popular wassail recipe stayed, and remains the best seller. The Webbs have added two products a year, and the list now includes 21 items, with the latest -- gourmet bread mixes for bread machines -- introduced last year. Mr. Webb said he was in a state of disbelief for the first two years of the company's rapid success. "Now, it's a lot of hard work," he said.

Mr. Webb oversees the production and distribution of the mixes from beginning to end -- more than 4,000 stores carry Old World Specialties. He attends craft shows from Boston to Atlanta year-round and tries to stay creative with the company.

Mrs. Webb keeps the books and maintains her goal of earning money while raising four children, ages 2 to 11.

Old World Specialties are sold locally at the Hickory Stick in Westminster and at Cathy's Country Home on Route 30, east of Gettysburg. Information: 751-9050.

Learn to juggle

Here's an idea to beat the February blues: Learn to juggle. Taneytown Recreation Council is sponsoring a juggling class at 7 p.m. Wednesdays at the Taneytown Elementary School cafeteria.

Classes are $8. Information: 756-2809.

Susie Heck is forming a juggling club for those interested in honing their skills and getting together with like-minded folks.

Contact her at 756-1113.

Answers for parents

Parents who are at the end of their ropes with their children this winter, or who just want to get a boost in skills and knowledge, might want to attend "Questions and Answers About Parent-Child Relationships" tonight at Grace United Church of Christ in Taneytown.

The speaker is George Giese from the county Youth Services Bureau. Cost is $2.

The event is sponsored by the church and Carroll Child Care Centers.

The program begins at 5:30 p.m. at the church on West Baltimore Street. Snow date is Feb. 22.

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