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78 WINTER 2014 K KEENELAND.COM pasta guys cooking it. One lady told me that the way she cooked pasta was to drop it in boiling water, leave, watch a movie, then come back, and it would be ready". Both Gonzalez and Romero are natural showmen and being at the Farmers Market gave them a stage and a visual presence in the community. One late morning this October, a long line of people waited to buy their weekly quota. One such young couple, Ryan and Ann Copple, buy three to fve bunches of pasta every Saturday. Ryan said, "I like to support local business and love the product." Ann added: "The favors themselves are enough and don't need a whole lot of extra ingredients. Just good olive oil and cheese." Predictably their customers started wanting the product available in grocery stores, not just on Saturdays at the Farmers Market. Good Foods Co-Op was the frst to recognize this demand. Whole Foods followed, then Fresh Market, Liquor Barn, and fnally all 13 local Krogers. "Before, we used to call everyone and chase the business. Now they call us," Romero said. Sysco, a huge wholesale supplier in the South, has added the pasta to its product inventory. Wanting to expand into farmers markets in Louisville, Cincinnati, and Berea, Lexington Pasta developed an incentive program with subcontractor entrepreneurs in these cities, lending them a canopy, banner, and cooler, selling them their pasta at wholesale price, and then allowing them to make their own sales. "It's a great motivator," said Romero, "and a wonderful way to help a small business grow; plus, it now gives us a presence in these cities." With business building blocks in place, dependable employees, and weekly pasta produc- tion increased from 200 pounds in the early years to 2,000 pounds fve years later, Lexington Pasta is taking it to the next level. Again listening to their customers clamor, they are ex- panding into the restaurant business. They are in the process of rehabbing a new factory location at 962 Delaware Ave. They plan to move into their new 8,000-square-foot space later this fall. Pasta production will take place at the back of the facility. A commercial kitchen in the middle will host their popular cooking classes, as well as exclusive pasta dinner events, and the front space will be the Pasta Garage Italian Café. "There will be about 30 seats," Gonzalez said, "but this is a casual place. You'll be able to see us making the pasta, pick your shapes, sauce, and toppings. It will be fast and fresh." Meanwhile, dedicated patrons of their downtown location will be re- lieved to know they have renewed their lease for another 12 years. Al- though pasta production will no lon- ger take place there, Romero said they plan to operate the space as an Italian bodega. Their pasta, sauces, and even an expanded line of ready-made meals will be available there. A hot pasta bar operating daily from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. will be added once the production equipment is moved. Bread, olive oils, parmesan, prosciutto de Parma, and a range of other pasta complementing products will also be sold. Asking about the signifcance of the name Pasta Garage Italian Café, Rome- ro volunteers that its location at North Limestone is in an old converted ga- rage, and when they move to Delaware they will be taking the old roll-up door with them. "People are familiar with the look," says Romero, "and at the same time we want to catch the wave. What did Amazon, Cadillac, and Hewl- ett-Packard all have in common? They all started their business in a garage." And so two young men who met in college and made pasta to help pay for their education have come full circle. "A lot of things have happened — there's an element of serendipity," says Gonza- lez. "We have tried to take advantage of the opportunities when they presented themselves. This business is nothing like our original vision." KM From left, Reinaldo Gonzalez, Rosa Ro- jas, Angel Perez, Fani Diaz, and Lesme Romero are taking Lexington Pasta to the next level.

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