International Women's Day is today, March 8, and while women's accomplishments could be celebrated every day of the year, this is a good time to shine a light on a Colorado success story in an industry typically dominated by men. Mulay's Sausage, founded by Loree Mulay Weisman and headquartered in Longmont, is breaking down barriers in the meat industry for future generations of women.
Mulay Weisman's sausage company has its roots in festivals and farmers' markets in and around Crested Butte, where she and her then-boyfriend (now husband), Ward Weisman, were ski bums working multiple jobs to make ends meet. In July 1990, Mulay Weisman ordered 100 pounds of meat, plus casings and spices, through local restaurant sources and began cranking out sausages with a KitchenAid mixer using her nana’s Sicilian recipe. She sold all of that 100-pound batch in four hours at the Crested Butte Independence Day festival.
Mulay Weisman continued to order through her sources and partnered with a small grocery store (now a Clark’s Market) to help process and sell the meat. “We were in very few grocery stores," she recalls. "We still were really relying on the festival schedules.”
People loved Nana’s sausage recipe, and she served it at the Alpine Lace Bed and Breakfast, which the Weismans opened in 1991; they followed that with the Crested Butte Lodge and Hostel in 1997, operating both until 2011. Connections in the hospitality industry, especially with other natural and organic food companies, led to the sausage maker "camping out" at the offices of Vitamin Cottage, which was growing rapidly in Colorado and would soon turn into Natural Grocers.
“I would wait hours until the buyer would see me," she admits, "and I got my meeting. We talked about how I needed to do a rebrand with new packaging and logo, and then I would be ready.”
To this day, Mulay’s has the same family crest (which dates back to 1326 in Sicily) logo and label design that resulted from that initial meeting at Vitamin Cottage. “We are so proud of our farmers, the animal husbandry and family tradition, we needed to put that at the forefront of the concept," Mulay Weisman recalls. "Today the tradition lives on — using only simple, traditional recipes and heritage pork raised on small family farms.”
The success with Vitamin Cottage parlayed into the placement of Mulay’s Sausage in more grocery stores in Colorado and beyond, along with the development of additional product lines such as meatballs and other traditional sausage styles. “The way we operate is sustainable for the farmers, their families and the community," Mulay Weisman continues. "We work with a small-family Midwest co-op of heritage pork on a vegetarian diet. We pay farmers a living wage — a negotiated set pricing not based on commodity markets.”
But the sausage company was always somewhat of a side gig, at least until the couple sold their hotel properties. Then, after embarking on an eighteen-month trip around the world with her husband and two daughters, Mulay Weisman chose Longmont, where she was born, to grow the business. "I’m fourth-generation Coloradan," she points out. "We knew where we needed to be, and Mulay’s was now our focus.”
Mulay’s remains grounded in Colorado and the many local markets along the Front Range (from Fort Collins to the Black Forest), but online sales and social media popularized the brand beyond the state's borders, especially for customers looking for paleo, keto and gluten-free pork products free of antibiotics and sourced from small farms. One of the biggest accounts outside of Colorado is Bristol Farms, a California grocery chain known for its celebrity clientele.
“Taste drives everything. But when you can offer an exceptional product with so many attributes, it’s going to resonate with our guests at Bristol Farms," notes Rick Stidham, the meat director for Bristol Farms. "Loree and Mulay’s are a wonderful business success story because of their dedication to superior quality and, above all, authentic flavors."
Mulay Weisman's daughters are now college-aged, and one of them recently returned to Los Angeles for school. "I told her, you'd better become the number-one ambassador at Bristol Farms," Mulay Weisman recalls, adding that she made sure her daughter had plenty of coupons to keep her fridge stocked with Mulay products.
The gender gap in the industry may never disappear, Mulay Weisman says, but perhaps her three decades in the business or the influence of her daughters may change things down the road. "It’s still a man’s world," she points out, "although I am seeing more and more women enter into the field. Traditionally, most meat producers and purveyors are the typical older white gentlemen who are incredibly knowledgeable yet very static. It’s exciting to see more women in the industry as butchers, buyers and grill masters.”
While business has shifted to online sales during the pandemic, Mulay Weisman says she's grateful that the production facility never had to shut down and that business was up 40 percent in 2020 with so many more people cooking at home. The company was even able to add new products to meet customer demand.
Still, she's looking forward to 2021 and 2022, when she can reconnect with local customers. "I’m excited to get back to our farms and local events," Mulay Weisman says. "That’s what launched us in Crested Butte: family recipes, friends and, most importantly, relationships. That never changes."
Purchase Mulay's products, including the new breakfast burritos, online, or find a store locator on the company's website.
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