Jun 8, 2020
When Pika Roels brought her quiches to potluck dinners they’d be gone in minutes.
When Pika Roels brought her quiches to potluck dinners they’d be gone in minutes. Fifteen years ago, Pika and partner Luk Roels left New York City, and respectively, jobs in the contemporary art world and packaging, and moved to the Catskills. Looking to create a new business in their upstate life they thought, why not try selling those ever so popular quiches… and Pika’s Farm Table now of Lake Katrine was born. It was a bit of a journey though.
First they found that out you can’t just run a growing food business out of your home kitchen for long and they soon moved into Hudson Valley Food Works in Poughkeepsie where Luk learned all about industrial mixers and all manner of large scale production equipment that had never been a part of the plan until all of a sudden: they became part of the plan.
The couple began providing products to a client in Penn Station and started making soups. Then they started making waffles and pickles and nearly everything in between. The company moved to Winter Sun Farms and started Farm to Table Copackers in the old IBM facility in Kingston. The Roels left that partnership and went back to running just their own business nine years ago, opening their current 7,000 square foot facility in Lake Katrine. Now Pika’s offers literally everything from soup and appetizers to desserts and sweets and everything in between.
Now, they have numerous clients for whom they produce premade carry out items, but they also continue to maintain numerous points of sale at farmers markets and local shops for the original Pika’s brand.
“We have a lot of clients but we realized, in todays world, what helps is that we still do farmers markets,” Luk said. “It’s the foundation that allows us to work for the big guys.
“That’s where HVADC came in,” he continued. “Two to three years ago we were making money but I had no clue where it was coming from. We reached out to HVADC and they hooked us up with (financial consultant) Brian Zweig. He helped us pinpoint where we were making and losing money, which was a great help.”
Luc says the company’s diversification is what has sustained them and allowed them to survive the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which came at an unbelievably inconvenient time for Pika’s.
In November of 2019, Pika’s got a contract to produce almost all the prepared products for Wichcraft, an NYC grab–n-go who’s investors include celebrity chef and restaurateur Tom Colicchio.
To accommodate the increase in business Pika’s doubled their staff from six to 12 and began the arduous task of getting the USDA certification necessary to process meat products at their facility. To help them undertake these processes they reached out to HVADC, and its Incubator Without Walls program.
“For a big plant getting through the system is a flip of the switch but for a small business like us it was a train wreck,” Luc said. “HVADC put us in touch with a consultant who helped us through it. They helped shorten the process and reached out on the political level. My wife comes from the arts, I’m from packaging. HVADC has been my knowledge and experience base.”
After making all the investments needed to be prepared for Wichcraft, in March, right as they were about to launch, the pandemic closed Wichcraft down.
“Fortunately we were diversified,” Luc said. “We are defiantly better off than a car dealership. Pandemic or not people have to eat.”
Orders from the home food delivery service boomed. Their business with Fresh Direct tripled, and orders to regional markets and farm stores are up as well. Due to their diversification Pika’s was even able to retain the staff brought on for the Wichcraft account.
“Pika and Luk’s greatest strength is how they adapt to change and take on challenges,” said HVADC Deputy Director Mary Ann Johnson. “Whenever they’ve had the opportunity to grow they rise to the occasion. HVADC has been happy to help in any way we can but it’s their self-determination that has continued to drive their success.”
To learn more about the assistance HVADC provides through Incubator Without Walls, visit https://www.hvadc.org/incubator-without-walls.