Team behind new Starbucks sweet treat Megpies includes Kingston native
Next time you go to a Starbucks, odds are you’ll be able to order a Megpies tart — they’re available at 7,500 of the coffee chain’s United States stores, thanks in part to Kingston native Paul Jones.
Jones, a 1987 graduate of Wyoming Valley West High School, joined Brooklyn, New York’s Megpies in a professional capacity in 2013. He first moved to New York to sale the services of Bedwick & Jones Printing, the Wilkes-Barre business started by his father, Bob Jones, and uncle, Ray Bedwick, before taking jobs in a number of New York kitchens for a change of pace. His experience with marketing and culinary arts made him the perfect candidate to help girlfriend and Megpies founder Meghan Ritchie expand the tarts’ client base, garner attention from Starbucks and achieve nationwide distribution.
“When Meg started these tarts I knew she’d need some help because it was growing and I was happily going to do that,” Jones said. “Once I started going out and meeting people in the cafes, the baristas, the owners and the customers, I knew she had hit on something. The response was really positive and I just felt like we could see these in a lot more places, so that’s when I started to sort of get out there and hit the pavement.”
The Megpies Jones sold and delivered to New York shops were square tarts (think Pop-Tarts) made from all-natural ingredients and filled with jam made by Brooklyn-based Anarchy in a Jar. According to Ritchie, Jones’ man-on-the-street attitude was integral to Megpies’ growth.
“Paul is really responsible for the growth of the company,” Ritchie added. “I would say he’s excellent with the customers, he really wants to make sure everyone enjoys their experiences with the tarts.”
The tarts themselves were a product of necessity. Ritchie previously made donuts and sold them to commuters from her Park Slope stoop, but the relocation of her roommate/baking partner meant she had to search for an easier recipe. She moved on to hand pies and scones, but when her then-employer — a jam company — needed a way to showcase its product at food fairs, Ritchie’s tarts were born.
Jones’ networking skills garnered Megpies more opportunities throughout New York, including a business partnership with Starbucks; two years ago, Megpies launched in 28 of the corporation’s stores in Brooklyn and Manhattan. According to Deb Hannah, director of retail branded partnerships at Starbucks, the chain has put more emphasis on “finding local entrepreneurs to work with in close partnership.” She said Jones and Ritchie “represent the kind of entrepreneurs we love to work with,” so much so that on July 6 Starbucks took Megpies nationwide.
“We work closely with the Megpies team to support, mentor and shepherd them through the process of scaling to sell in Starbucks – just like we do for all of our entrepreneurs,” Hannah said. “We are with them every step of the way and are committed to partnering very closely to help ensure their success.”
Jones described the experience as an MBA on-the-fly — the Megpies team had to enhance their Brooklyn-based production with a facility in Massachusetts and learn about large-scale distribution hands-on. Ritchie said she didn’t expect to enjoy the logistical problem solving as much as she does, but at the end of the day, the Megpies mission statement remains unchanged.
“I think the main focus of our company has always been to try and provide people with the kind of joy that they got when they were young kids,” Ritchie said. “That’s really what we have focused on, and we’re excited to provide that nationwide.”
Jones and Ritchie said their next step is to expand their regional distribution and reach a number of non-Starbucks locations along the East Coast corridor. Until then, the two will continue working out the kind of growing pains that come about when a business moves from stoop to Starbucks.
Reach Gene Axton at 570-991-6121 or on Twitter @TLArts