Fastachi (617/924-8787 or fastachi.com) began as a small Boston neighborhood shop in 1990 and has grown into one of the country's top purveyors of fresh nuts. They offer gourmet nut mixes including Cranberry, Fiesta and Wasabi, as well as handmade chocolates, nut butters, dried fruits and other gourmet snacks. We spoke with founder/owner Souren Etyemezian about his beginnings and how he built his business.
Fancy Food: What is your background, and how did
you get into the retail nut business?
Souren Etyemezian: I founded Fastachi, then known as Mixed Nuts, in 1990, shortly after my graduation from university. I actually began my college career as an engineer, but as time passed, my passion for marketing and entrepreneurship surfaced, and I graduated with a degree in business. Unsure of what to do after graduation, an opportunity presented itself and I launched Mixed Nuts — a retail storefront concept specializing in small batch nut roasting with the core product line being fresh-roasted nuts and nut mixes, while at the same time creating a unique shopping experience.
In 1995, I expanded the business to include an e-commerce division and a wholesale division. Once the concept began taking off, I was determined to create a brand. I changed the name to Fastachi in 1999 and slowly expanded the core product line to include nut gifts, chocolate nut barks and nut butters, while also introducing other complementary products. Throughout the years, one thing has remained constant: my commitment to both quality and service, which I plan to carry forward with the opening of our new location in Boston's historic Beacon Hill.
FF: How much of your sales are by mail now, as
opposed to sales in your store?
SE: Actually, in-store sales still account for the majority of sales. It goes back to creating a unique buying experience, one that captures all the senses — sight, smell, taste, touch and sound. But it's also an experience that is backed up by a commitment to providing products of exceptional quality and taste, giving personal attention to both customers and products, and exceeding customers' expectations. Our e-commerce business does continue to grow steadily and supports the retail store. However, until the aroma of fresh roasted nuts and chocolates can be transmitted through the computer screen, the complete Fastachi in-store experience will remain an "in-store" experience.
FF: What are some of your best-selling items?
SE: Cranberry Nut mix is still our best-selling item; it has been for years.
FF: What kind of nut is your personal favorite?
SE: Our Salted Almonds — it has a smoky, rich flavor. One handful a day.
FF: How do you go about finding and developing
SE: Ideas for new products tend to just happen. They most often are triggered when I am traveling. Sometimes they are triggered by conversations with employees, customers and friends. New product developments do not happen often, and if they do, they have to fit into one of our existing core product lines because we want to continue to do what we do best. Prior to introducing new products, we make small batches and test amongst employees, friends and colleagues; we take note of feedback and make adjustments. After making any adjustments, we test amongst our retail store customers, again taking notes and making adjustments. Once we feel the product is right, we introduce it.
FF: When you sell food items by mail, people can't
see or taste them before buying. How do you overcome
SE: A large number of our mail order customers became customers because they received Fastachi as a gift, tasted them at an event or tasted them at the farmers' market. The other ways we try to overcome that obstacle is with appetizing images and detailed descriptions on our website, and incomparable customer
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