Made in the Tri-States: Budding Bellevue business develops taste for success

Warehouse manager Rita Connolly mixes Cheddar Bacon dip at Simply Parker’s. The Bellevue, Iowa, business started in 2016. It makes dips, sauces and cheeses with its unique recipes. The products of Simply Parker’s also are in several tri-state grocery stores and breweries. PHOTO CREDIT: EILEEN MESLAR

With only three years under its belt, Misty Parker acknowledges that her Bellevue, Iowa-based business might not have the same brand recognition as its competitors.

Simply Parker’s began making its signature lineup of sauces, dips and cheeses in 2016. Ever since, Parker has worked tirelessly to make sure everyone is familiar with the company’s name and can get a taste of its products.

“It is not easy being the little guy,” she said. “It is all about knocking on doors, dropping off samples and not taking ‘no’ for an answer.”

The effort has paid off.

Today, Simply Parker’s products can be found at Hy-Vee, Fareway and Casey’s locations, as well as several smaller stores throughout the area. Meanwhile, Parker is working to create new products and extend the company’s reach.

Parker and her 10 employees — seven part-time and three full-time — create dozens of distinct products within their production space.

According to Parker, these concoctions always are created with an eye toward quality and an unwillingness to skimp on the ingredients.

“If people start trying to nickel-and-dime everything you do, it shows in your product every time,” she said.

GETTING IT RIGHT

Within the walls at the Simply Parker’s facility at 29418 U.S. 52, workers create a diverse array of products.

Parker said her barbecue sauce is made with ketchup, brown sugar, vegetable juice and a variety of seasonings. The company also creates jalapeno barbecue and sweet mustard sauces.

Simply Parker’s makes more than a dozen dips, including multiple seafood and cheese flavors. These products generally begin with a cream or cheddar cheese cold pack base. They are made in 40- to 60-pound batches, Parker explained.

While each product has its unique recipe, the mindset behind each remains consistent.

“Everything we do is fresh, we make it to order and we don’t use artificial preservatives,” Parker said.

Parker said the company achieved a major breakthrough when it struck a deal with HelloFresh, a company that delivers meal kits with pre-packaged ingredients. Simply Parker’s provides gourmet, flavored butter for those meals.

Parker, however, isn’t resting on her laurels.

She said a jalapeno cheddar dip is being perfected and will soon hit local shelves.

“There are always people coming up with new recipes, new idea, new flavors,” she said. “If you don’t stay in tune with what is going on around you, people are going to outsell you.”

TASTY COLLABORATIONS

Nicolas Hockenberry, director for the Jackson County Economic Alliance, has been excited to see Simply Parker’s find its footing in Bellevue.

“She’s seen incredible growth in a short period of time,” Hockenberry said. “It has been really fun to watch her business grow in the way that it has. I think she has accomplished that by going in different directions and being flexible and being responsive to the market.”

Hockenberry, who also co-owns River Ridge Brewing in Bellevue, has had a firsthand look at the way this innovation can take shape.

His brewery is in the process of collaborating with Simply Parker’s on a new beer cheese.

River Ridge is among multiple Iowa breweries that have forged partnerships with Simply Parker’s. Others include Thew Brewing in Cedar Rapids, Franklin Street Brewing Co. in Manchester and Iowa Brewing Co. in Cedar Rapids. Parker also plans to create a beer cheese and collaborate on other products with Catfish Charlie’s restaurant in Dubuque.

“I think it’s worked nicely for the breweries and it’s given her another niche market,” Hockenberry said.

SETTING UP SHOP

While Simply Parker’s only arrived in Bellevue a few years ago, the origins extend much further back.

It all started when a young mother living in Wyoming developed a barbecue sauce recipe and began selling the product under the Pine Ridge moniker. Parker’s parents, Eli and Barb Dicklich, later purchased the proprietary rights to manufacture those products.

Parker, who boasts extensive experience in the food and restaurant industry, took over the business when her parents retired.

With an eye toward product diversity, she also bought Prairie Inn Gourmet Dips, a Wisconsin company with a wide array of cheese and seafood products.

“I didn’t want to be cornered into one market,” she said. “We changed a bunch of recipes, developed some new ones and made it more of our own, and came up with what we have now.”

After deciding to take on the business, Parker cast a wide net in her search for a suitable location. A resident of Bellevue, she looked at possible spots within a 45-mile radius before hitting the jackpot with a facility only two miles from her home.

She now boasts a retail shop that sells Simply Parker’s products, as well as a variety of wares from other Iowa merchants.

To Parker, the multi-faceted retail space is yet another way to spread her burgeoning brand.

“The gift shop helps,” she said. “Highway 52 is a big, scenic route and people like to stop in here.”