Local Goods: Both Local and Good
Rob Kirby traveled a long way to be a local. The Orcas Island entrepreneur was born in Brooklyn, and grew up in New Jersey, working in food service throughout his early life, cooking for restaurants in Boston, New York and taking him to tourist-driven destinations such as Nantucket, Ocracoke Island, North Carolina, and St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands.
But adventure called - as (s)he does to many newcomers to the islands, and Kirby ditched his saucepans for a sorcerer’s wand, the kind that stirs the pot of potential. When he landed on Orcas Island in 1998, he’d already been tagged by family members to share his Riesling-Basil salad dressing and other recipes among friends and loved ones. But with more time on his hands, and the need for making a living nipping at his heels, he eventually expanded his repertoire to include several dressings, hot sauces, preserves, pastas and spice rubs focused on Northwest flavors and local ingredients.
He also began experimenting with roasting coffee - first in a cast iron pan over a stove - and eventually expanding his coffee line to more than a dozen distinct beans he imported from coffee-growing regions such as Oaxaca to Tanzania, each with a specific flavor profile and style of roast.
Slowly, organically and on a shoe-string budget his business began to grow, with more and more local shops and restaurants selling and serving his flavorful sauces and spices. His life has changed, too, for Kirby and his partner Heidi, with the addition of Douglas, now 3 years old. But even with all the island mellow and a slower pace, Kirby hasn’t lost his East Coast energy.
“What really excites me is in July and August when were at our busiest and everything is running smoothly,” he says. He loves days when the energy is flowing, when his Local Goods family is “psyched, all the equipment is tuned up and running, coffee is being roasted, grinders going, bags being filled, pasta is being cranked out, the granola ovens are full, the dryer is packed, bottles are being labeled, orders are coming in, our waste veg oil car is doing deliveries, and the Saturday market is in full swing.”
With more and more products being offered, including fresh pastas, toasted granolas and untoasted muesli flavored with coconut and dates or lavender and nuts, Kirby’s cottage industry in Deer Harbor is working to capacity, keeping the energy flowing all summer and beyond.
“We live where we work,” he says. “It’s like controlled madness keeping all the balls in the air and I thrive on it. Hopefully by sunset I can go for a sail."