SHIRLEY – Deborah O’Kelly has big plans for Golden Girl Granola, the company that has evolved from selling out at a farmers market to being produced at Phoenix Park for the last decade plus.
The Belmont native attended Lake Forest College in Chicago then Middlebury College in Vermont for a master's degree in French. She and her husband built a house in Carlisle in 1985, where they still live, and raised their two daughters there.
Their daughters, dubbed the ‘Golden Girls’, expressed an interest in participating in the Carlisle farmers market back in 2008.
“They had made lemonade stands when they were younger and thought that homemade mini doughnuts might be popular at the market,” O’Kelly recalled. “They were, until a few hours outdoors ruined the doughnuts' freshness. The following week they tried homemade granola that quickly sold out. They doubled their production each week and still sold out before the market was over.”
After that first market season she said their “loyal granola customers begged us to keep making it for them” but the girls had to go to college.
“That meant I became the baker and packager myself until they returned for summer break and more markets in other local towns,” O’Kelly conveyed.
They also made pies and scones in addition to the granola and people ate it up, so much so that a few stores began calling about offering their granola to customers year-round.
“That required licenses and a certified kitchen, which was good timing because our home oven burned out at the same time,” O’Kelly said. “I found a small kitchen I could share in Chelmsford but when the demand for granola kept expanding, I decided to move to Shirley's Phoenix Park where there were already a couple of bakeries making various products and there was a space available with all the facilities I needed.”
She and Annie Cronin of Annie’s Gluten-Free Bakery decided to share a kitchen and Golden Girl Granola moved into Phoenix Park on Shaker Road in January of 2012. The unique state of the art business center offers a wide array of commercial lease options from office space to light industrial manufacturing to kitchens and food production, just what Golden Girl Granola needed in order to grow.
Nowadays a number of grocery chains as well as local specialty shops and farms stand carry the granola brand. Whole Foods, Donelan's, Crosby's, Hannaford, Roche Brothers, Big Y, Stop & Shop and Wegmans are the grocery stores in the area that offer Golden Girl Granola to customers and other venues include Idylwilde Farms in Acton, Bolton Orchards, Rota Spring Farm in Sterling, The Concord Market, Verrill Farm in Concord, and Volante Farms in Needham.
“Perhaps the store with the greatest per capita sales is Shop 'n Save right in Ayer, we have to fill our grocery rack every other week because our granola sells so well,” O’Kelly shared.
In addition, both Tully Farms Dairy in Dunstable and Crescent Ridge Dairy in Sharon sell their granola and granola bars to customers through their home delivery service and they also sell the granola online.
“We have found that visitors to Massachusetts who have discovered our granola now have it sent to them all across the country,” O’Kelly said. “Our goal is to expand beyond the New England area and start to become known as a national brand. That means employing more local people here because Phoenix Park has room for us to grow.”
They offer seven mouthwatering flavors and one seasonal one, Pumpkin Harvest. Blueberry, Chocolate Decadence, Creative Cranberry, and Forest Maple are baked with pure maple syrup and Home Sweet Honey, Original, and Truly Tropical are baked with wildflower honey. All of the flavors come in 9 or 10 oz. bag sizes as well as 2 oz. snack bags.
“Of the honeys, the Original is the most popular,” O’Kelly said when asked what their more popular flavors are. “Forest Maple is the most popular maple flavor but our Chocolate Decadence with gourmet Guittard chocolate is a close third.
“Customers often face a choice of foods that are either bland but healthy or are tasty because of excessive sugar and salt,” she continued. “Our goal is to make a healthy, baked product that is beyond delicious. We do that by selecting the best natural ingredients and hand-stirring and double-baking them to bring out honest flavor.”
They won Best Appetizer at the 15th annual Taste of Nashoba in March of 2016, where Golden Girl Granola was a big hit, and have attracted quite the large fan base that continues to grow. When asked what it means to have people supporting their growing small business, O’Kelly said they tend to think of it as the opposite.
“We prefer to think of it as our business supporting people,” the successful businesswoman conveyed. “That means not only our employees and the local stores and markets who have helped us grow, but also our customers who enjoy our granola.”
For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org, visit goldengirlgranola.com, and follow Golden Girl Granola on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.