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Columbus is nuts for Krema Nut Company

Laura Dachenbach

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I remember the smell of Wonder Bread being voted one of the best aromas in Columbus in some sort of poll. Obviously, these responders had never been to the Krema Nut Company. When I enter the Krema retail space and headquarters on West Goodale in Grandview Heights, the irresistible aroma of roasted nuts and popcorn hits me like a circus and movie theater rolled into one. I know I’m not going to leave here without something in my hand.

The Krema Nut Company was founded in 1898 by Benton Black. The building was located at Second and High Streets, and primarily ground spices. However, Black also discovered the practicality and marketability of grinding peanuts into a paste, creating a protein supplement for people who were unable to chew other types of food. (Adequate dentistry was still in development.) The company moved to its present location in the mid 1920s, and while it started roasting the peanut butter, the product is still decidedly “old-school.”

“We do it all natural, so there’s no sugar, no salt, no hydrogenated oils. We use the number one fancy-grade Spanish peanut, dry roast it, take the skin off, take the heart out [the bitter part of the nut] and grind it. So
it’s real simple,” explains Brian Giunta, Krema’s Senior Vice President. 

Roasted nuts led to candies in the 1990s. Krema’s signature confections include Cashew Crunch, a handmade toffee; Buckeye Crunch, a caramel corn coated in peanut butter and chocolate; and Pecan Turtles—as well as chocolate-coated nuts, pretzels, and raisins. 

Giunta’s family bought Krema Nut in 1991, when he was a teenager. He knew he enjoyed business, but didn’t know where to channel that interest, and began discussing his plans with with his parents and others. “That was right when the internet was starting to really kind of pop.” 

Guinta recalls his father being interviewed by Business First about the company’s website, one of the first in Columbus. “There’s a picture of my dad holding a big scoop of nuts out front talking about the internet, if it was going to take off.” 

Inspired, Giunta joined the Krema team after college, and has played a role in preserving its traditions, but also carrying the company forward as his parents work towards full retirement.

“I came on in 2000, and so I started from the bottom and worked my way up. Every single job in this place, I’ve done,” Giunta says. “[Taking over the company] is awesome, but it’s a lot of weight on the shoulders.” 

As he moves around the space, it doesn’t seem there isn’t a job that Giunta can’t or won’t do, from taking calls to running equipment to helping behind the register. Today’s task is to make Hot and Spicy Peanut Butter, a natural peanut butter with a bit of cayenne pepper, a perfect addition to a cheese and cracker platter. (Giunta especially enjoys this treat with saltines.)

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Giunta takes me back into Krema’s production area, occupied by old but well-built machinery, and the simplicity of the process becomes clear.

“Our grinder is very small. It’s low output. We do small batches. We make peanut butter every week. It would probably make much more sense to do a month’s worth, put it on a skid and put it in a warehouse and let it be. But that’s not us. We want it to always be fresh. Same thing with the oil roasting. We do it every week. So again, it would make more sense to just roast for a couple days and fill up all of our inventory. But that’s not us. So it’s like Groundhog Day every week.”

And there’s no fooling around. After master roaster Doug Vorhies loads the spicy peanuts (yes, just peanuts) into the grinder, he sits down to collect the thick, smooth butter in pre-labeled glass jars and hands it
off to to be immediately (yes, immediately) sealed, locking in the freshness as promised. 

“I can burn 300 pounds in a matter of seconds if I don’t pay attention to what I’m doing,” said Vorhies, who has been roasting and grinding peanuts at Krema for a decade. “When I get the peanuts in, I look at the lot number and see if that’s changed. Or you feel the weight of the bag and sometimes they’re a little bit looser because the moisture has evaporated out so the nut would tend to shrink down.”

Although visitors aren’t allowed in the production area, much of the process is still visible through the retail store windows. Krema’s retail space is split between its store, which carries its nut, popcorn, and candy products, and its cafe, which offers a dozen gourmet nut butter sandwiches. The Krema Special, an upgraded PB and J, is a top favorite. The Classic Old Timer, a sandwich of crunchy peanut butter, strawberry preserves, and sliced strawberries, is a close second. Ice cream and milkshakes are available, care of Johnson’s Old-Fashioned Ice Cream in Bexley.

“We have a nice relationship with them where they’ll use our peanut butter […] and we’ll use their ice cream for our milkshakes and sundaes,” said Giunta. “They do a great job over there.”

I give into the sensory overload and my undeniable hunger and try a Peanut Butter Apple Cheesecake sandwich, an absolute tribute to the comfort childhood with a grown-up taste. There’s hardly a way to not get sticky eating this treat, but I don’t really mind. Peanut butter always seems to hit the spot. 

As I’m leaving, Giunta notices a stray nut on the floor. It would be easy to leave it and let it be swept up later during a dedicated cleaning time. But instead, Giunta picks it up and discards it, lest it be crushed underfoot. It seems to be exemplary of his sense of pride and drive for quality and customer satisfaction that’s summed up in a simple mantra.

“I just want everything to be perfect.”

The Krema Nut Company is located at 1000 W Goodale Ave.
For product information and to order online, visit krema.com.

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Food & Drink

Kick off summer with FREE Krispy Kreme this Saturday

Mike Thomas

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It’s officially summer in C-Bus, which, due to climate change, apparently doubles as monsoon season (thanks a lot, Al Gore).

If you’re still there after reading the words “climate change,” we have some good news. Krispy Kreme, purveyors of those sugary-sweet rings we all know and love, want to help you celebrate “summer” (and the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 space mission) with a free doughnut this Saturday, June 22.

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Free doughnuts might just be the perfect way to salvage a weekend wrecked by rain. As always, please remember to pace yourself!

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Biz + Dev

Signage suggests new eatery coming to former Short North Blick space

Mike Thomas

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A brand new awning sporting the words “Ned’s Bayou” has appeared over the former Blick’s Art Supplies location at 612 N High St in the Short North.

While initial searches have turned up little information about this forthcoming business, we can only assume that this will one day be the sight of a Louisiana-inspired restaurant of some sort.

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Then again, the word “Bayou” carries other connotations. Maybe this will be the Short North’s first-ever spot for gator rasslin’. Only time will tell!

614NOW will keep an eye peeled for more info on this business as it becomes available.

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Food & Drink

Hop On: (614) rolls around in new brewery party bus

Regina Fox

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So many breweries, so little time, so few volunteers to drive your tipsy tush around, right? Wrong! Columbus, I’d like you to meet CBus Brew Bus: a brewery party bus tour that offers a new and refreshingly different way for curious hop heads to experience the local craft beer scene.

It was a despairingly shitty day in Central Ohio when our very strange-looking Uber pulled up to the (614) Media Group office. We all raced to the front to catch a glimpse, giggling at the thought of our impending adventure. 

Our tour was private, meaning we had the whole bus to ourselves and were able to customize the pickup and dropoff locations, as well as the destinations. Public tours, on the other hand, are made up of several small groups that meet in the heart of downtown at City Tavern and visit predetermined breweries. (I know what you’re thinking and yes, the AUX cord is up for grabs on both private and public tours.)  

Photos: Rebecca Tien

Owner Andy Bachman and his wife/tour guide extraordinaire/HBIC Jess greeted us at the door as we took our seats. The inside was decked out with paintings of Godzilla wearing a shirt reading “I Heart Local Beer” and Godzilla wearing a Block “O” tee—both raising foaming pints of beer, naturally. Unlike a real school bus where Kenny from 5C won’t stop kicking the back of your seat, CBus Brew Bus chairs face inward to keep conversations flowing right along with the brews. Between each seat is a cup holder that contained a 6.75-ounce sample glass that we would use to sample three unique beers at each of our three destinations.

Between curiosities of our careers and a mutual interest in beer, we hit it off with both Jess and Andy immediately—a perk of the service before we even shifted into drive. 

“It’s a great way to meet other people who may already enjoy craft beer,” Andy said of the tour. “You might even be somebody new to town or visiting from out of town and it’s a great way to acclimate yourself to the Columbus culture.”

First stop: Zaftig Brewing

We hustled in to avoid the rain and were met by an expecting Frank Shoults, Zaftig Taproom Manager. One of the most special qualities of CBus Brew Bus is the personalized experience you receive at every checkpoint. There were other bar guests upon our arrival, but Shoults gave us his undivided attention as he explained the beers, and waited patiently as we decided on our individual flights of three. 

I’m an IPA girl through and through, but I wanted to use this excursion to expand my hop horizons. I went with the Big Barleywine (14% ABV), Nuts For You Peanut Butter Stout (8% ABV) and Juicy Lucy IPA (7% ABV) because, well, old habits die hard.

While Andy understands that beer isn’t everyone’s thing, he’s confident the CBus Brew Bus can provide an experience even the most inexperienced beer drinker can appreciate. 

“Through this tour, you get to sample nine different types of beer and there’s usually something within that range that people will grab onto,” he assured. “There’s something for everybody. Don’t fear the beer!” 

We sipped and gossiped until Shoults came over and invited us on a tour of the Zaftig brewing facility. We learned about cultures, yeast, the canning process, and the importance of having a CFO (chief feline officer—follow Hops on Instagram at @zaftighops).

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Second stop: Parsons North 

Jess popped the top of our crowler of Sweet Lucy and officially christened our trip with its first road beers before we were even clear of the Zaftig parking lot. You can throw a rock from pretty much anywhere in Columbus and hit a drinking establishment, but there’s just something about sipping on an ice-cold IPA with your buddies while doing 65 down I-71 South. Beer tastes better while you’re doing a mile a minute. Amirite?

It was becoming crystal clear that the three seemingly small samples at each brewery + to-go beers between stops were going to add up quickly.

Like at Zaftig, our bartender was also ready and waiting for us with an ice-cold pitcher when we tipsily traipsed into Parsons North. Mulberry Saison (7% ABV), American Stout (5% ABV), and Grapefruit Wheat (6% ABV) were the three beers we were treated to—none of which I would have ordered on my own accord, but were all brews I’d drink again. 

Andy, now retired from Columbus City Schools, was first introduced to craft beer during his residency in Boulder, CO and, more specifically, his experience with Boulder Beer Company about 20 years ago. Experimenting with different craft beers has been a muse of mine for about five years now. Andy, however, is a pioneer of sorts.  

“From that point on, I was pretty anti-domestic,” Andy said laughingly. But, he returned to Ohio in the mid-90s only to discover how far, far behind we were in the craft beer scene. Andy became a teacher but clung to his passion for beer. Without the capital for a taproom or enough knowledge of the process to become a brewer himself, Andy landed on the idea for the CBus Brew Bus.

Third and final stop: Platform Beer Co. 

The trip from stop 2 to stop 3 is what Andy calls the “sweet spot.” What he means is that the riders are experiencing peak fun. I couldn’t agree more. Our small, but lively, group of (614) staffers and Jess—who was going beer sample for beer sample with us—drank the rest of our Sweet Lucy crowler under-the-light of the green LEDs that lined the ceiling of the bus, and talked and laughed at unnecessarily high volumes until we rolled to a stop at our final destination. 

At Platform, I tried the Seltzer Project: Tangerine-Grapefruit Hard Seltzer (5% ABV) and I loved it. Will it replace my Black Cherry White Claws this summer? Stay tuned. I also had the Mello Hello IPA – Brut (5.4% ABV) and loved it, also. 

By this point, at our third brewery, it was crystal clear that the three seemingly small samples at each brewery plus to-go beer between stops had really added up—tipsy would’ve been an understated adjective for our crew. But, we got way more than a Friday morning hangover out of the deal. Jess was our new favorite drinking buddy, we fell in love with several new brews we may have never taken a chance on otherwise, we learned the ins and outs of Zaftig’s brewing process, and we bonded with each other in a way that few coworkers get to experience. 

What will your Brew Bus adventure hold?

For more information and to schedule your next trip, visit cbusbrewbus.com.

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