Not About Food 20

Ideas for Biz Importing/Selling Obscure Food Items

Jim Leff | Mar 22, 2008 01:26 PM

I was recently in Oaxaca, and there are villages producing godhead Mezcals (tobalá) selling for under $10/bottle, with everyone working their hands to the bone, doing everything right, and no one knows/cares. Sales are mere trickles. Meanwhile, far lesser Mezcals sell in Oaxaca city for $40-$80, and in USA for over $100.

It bugs me. I've spent my whole career finding and evangelizing (and creating forums for swapping tips on) unheralded greatness. But there's lots of stuff still falling through the cracks that I'd love to find a way to "get out there".

One idea would be to start an import company and sell thru an internet storefront. The problem is I can't stand business stuff. It doesn't take much money to make me happy, and I like to spend my time in creative pursuits (writing, playing music, brewing up new ideas, chowhounding) rather than scrambling unmercifully to separate people from their hard-earned cash.

But I hate it that so many great food/drink items are still so obscure - that the geniuses who produce them are impoverished and under-appreciated, and that those of us who'd enjoy them are unable to access them.

So....is there any relatively easy, no-fuss way to start a sleepy little importing company, without having to turn into Joe Capitalist? It doesn't need to turn a profit (I can do freelance music/writing for income). Or maybe I could just be the buyer/adviser for someone else doing the importing (hmm...that wouldn't be bad at all). Or something more clever/creative...? Anyone have any ideas for something that could be done that wouldn't take over my life, but that could get the treasure out there, and help the treasure-makers? That's sort of what the idea of Chowhound was all about, but an online forum doesn't solve issues of actually distributing stuff....

The mezcal would be a start, but I can think of dozens more items that deserve to be spotlit and made more widely available. Should I just forget about it, or does anyone have a suggestion that works per my concerns?

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