Rachel's Brownies Moves from Novelty to Hot SellerMIKE OWEN , Associated Press
Jul. 26, 1986 9:27 PM ET
MALVERN, PA. MALVERN, Pa. (AP) _ Rachel Borish and Jeffrey Slater have their own version of the American Dream. It's packed with chocolate, covered with walnuts, loaded with calories, spurns preservatives and makes money.
She's 33, he's 32, they have two daughters and they've built Rachel's Brownies into a booming business - but one they don't want to get so big that it hurts their family life.
''We're probably the only corporation that holds board meetings in bed,'' says Ms. Borish, who started baking brownies for sale in her parents' kitchen in 1975. ''That's probably why we'll never take any partners.''
Last year, they had about $2 million in sales, with United Airlines and People Express among customers in more than 20 states.
There was a time when they'd go to a supermarket and load a basket full of sugar and bags of chocolate chips and the like. They cracked their own eggs and wrapped the brownies by hand.
Those days long past, they expect this year to make about 10 million brownies at their bakery in an office complex west of Philadelphia. They employ about 45 people to make Rachel's Brownies in four flavors: double chocolate with walnuts, double chocolate, butterscotch and raisin spice.
A 2 oz. brownie can sell at premium prices - as much as $1.50 in New York, but normally about 75 cents, Slater said - and the couple like to think of their product as gourmet stuff. Each little bundle carries about 250 calories, Slater said.
They're also sold in three-pound trays to caterers and, in the latest venture for the company, in one-pound trays to grocery stores. The scraps go to ice cream companies.
They have a saleswoman who uses their wedding pictures to sell the product: Slater's mother, Bea, calls on about 40 customers in northern New Jersey.
Their parents also ease some overhead costs that saddle other businesses. Their fathers - hers a lawyer and his a stockbroker - give free legal and financial advice.
''All it costs us,'' Slater said, ''is brownies for life.''
Last year, President Reagan got a taste of Rachel's Brownies during a visit to Great Valley Corporate Center. A photo of the president with a brownie is on a bulletin board in the couple's office - right next to drawings by daughter Sarah, 4 1/2 .
''We have things in perspective,'' said Ms. Borish, whose second daughter, Fanny, was born last October.
''We make plenty of time to go on vacations,'' she said, adding they also keep weekends to themselves. ''I feel real sorry for those people who have their focus so narrow that they feel their business won't survive if they go out of town.''
Not that they don't take their work home with them. They find themselves talking about the business to each other after hours. That's one thing that hasn't changed from the early days.
''I can remember sitting at our dining room table and calling a place to buy eggs wholesale,'' Slater said, recalling the shock on his wife's face when he spoke the words ''Rachel's Brownies'' into the phone. ''She couldn't get used to a place named Rachel's Brownies.''
''It's a very strange feeling,'' said Ms. Borish, who didn't set out to peddle brownies. She was studying in Paris to be a pianist when tendonitis stopped her from pursuing her career.
She soon began baking brownies at her parents' home near downtown Philadelphia, armed with a synagogue cookbook recipe she amended by undercooking the brownies to make them as ''moist and fudgelike as possible.''
In 1976, Philadelphia Magazine named the brownies the ''Best of Philly,'' opening more opportunities. The couple began renting a small bakery on weekends, and in 1979, they moved to their current bakery.
Soon, they hope to get into the mail-order business.
''I'm convinced we could be selling five times as many brownies as we're selling today through the mail,'' Slater said.
Ms. Borish admits she's compromised with her more business-minded husband to get Rachel's Brownies where they are today.
She also concedes trouble delegating authority and considers herself a perfectionist - to the point where she would rewrap a brownie, or perform ''brownie surgery'' if a walnut was out of place.
So, her husband learned her techniques and what she wanted in a brownie and he taught employees.
Chocolate chips, for example, aren't mixed into brownie batter until the batter is in the pan, to ensure a more even distribution of the chips.
''I'm very fussy,'' Ms. Borish said. ''But I don't think I've been unreasonable.''
End Adv for Weekend Editions July 26-27