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Local Best

October 13, 1994|KATHIE JENKINS

Jeff and Jeannie Reese and his wife were honeymooning in England when they fell in love . . . with gingerbread. One bite of the rich, spicy cake and they were hooked. Back home in California, the newlyweds searched everywhere for it. No one made the kind of gingerbread they loved.

"That's how things get started," says Jeff Reese, a former computer graphics designer. "You look for it. You don't find it. You do it yourself."

Using friends and relatives as guinea pigs, the couple experimented with a lot of recipes. "We gave everyone gingerbread cookies for Christmas, and most everyone survived," Reese says. In 1991, finally satisfied with the formula, the couple rented space in a small bakery. Keeping their day jobs, the Reeses made gingerbread in their off hours and sold it under the J & J Gourmet Gingerbread label Sunday mornings at the Hollywood farmers market. Their customers gave them plenty of feedback on everything from the taste to the packaging. "It was market research to the n th degree," says Reese. "We needed to find out we weren't alone in our admiration for the gingerbread."

The company now makes four types of ginger cookies: a dark, soft type with pecans; spicy biscotti; crunchy dunkers; and a soft, fat-free version. A gingerbread loaf is also available during the holidays. Besides the Hollywood farmers market, the Reeses' products are sold at three other local growers' markets: Ventura on Saturday mornings; Santa Clarita on Sunday mornings, and Thousand Oaks on Thursday afternoons. The cookies are reasonably priced--$3 for an eight-ounce bag.

Reese, who now devotes all his time to the gingerbread business, is concentrating on mail order (minimum mail order is five bags). He is working on getting MasterCard and Visa. "It's been a tremendous learning experience," he says. "Had we not been so naive, we probably would not have started the business."

He also knows that making a tasty product is not enough these days. That's why he's not putting all his eggs in one basket. Says Reese: "I still buy my Lotto tickets."

* Gingerbread: The Cookie, J & J Gourmet Gingerbread Co.

P.O. Box 16082, North Hollywood, Calif. 91615-6082

(818) 763-3592

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