With an eye on the food allergy community as a unique group of consumers since 2008, we're on a quest to find and share ways to continue enjoying the good things in life.

10 September 2009

Food Allergy Buzz Exclusive with New Owner of Allergy Grocer & Miss Roben's

Glenn Molin, owner of Allergy Grocer and Miss Roben's, graciously agreed to a Q & A with Food Allergy Buzz. Thank you, Glenn!

What is your principle line of work? Have you always been an entrepreneur?
I would like to thank you for the opportunity to present a bit about myself and my decision to purchase Allergy Grocer and Miss Roben’s to www.foodallergybuzz.com readers.  Your blog is a wonderfully thoughtful and great resource for the community and I am excited to be included. 

I have been involved in the healthcare sector throughout my entire career (20+ years).  As a Doctor of Chiropractic, I developed several successful multi-disciplinary clinics that care for a large and diverse patient base. 

Currently, I am the CEO/President and owner of Next Generation MRI which is a medical diagnostic imaging facility located in Columbia, Maryland.  The center opened in 2005 and features the latest in MRI technology, the Upright Positional MRI.  Please feel free to peruse www.NextGenerationMRI.com for detailed information regarding the practice.

I have always been intrigued with business; so much so that I went back to graduate school and received an MBA.  I suppose I inherited my entrepreneurial spirit from my paternal grandfather.  In some ways, I am following in his footsteps.  He owned several groceries in New York City during his lifetime.  I am sure if he were alive today he wouldn’t fully comprehend the world of e-commerce, but I think he would be proud that I am involved in the “grocery” business.

Purchasing Allergy Grocer and Miss Roben’s presented a wonderful opportunity for me.  My goal is to use my knowledge and experience gained from 20+ years as a doctor and as a business person to build a sustainable enterprise in support of the health of food allergy sufferers by offering the very best in service, a wide variety of allergen friendly foods, reasonable prices, and the further development of the Miss Roben’s brand.   

Please tell us more about yourself and your connection to food allergies, food intolerances and/or celiac disease.
It seems as though everyone has at least some connection to food allergies, either personally, or through someone they know.  It is an increasingly pervasive malady in society.

In addition to airborne allergies and most antibiotics, I am a food allergy sufferer.  I am highly allergic to shell fish and moderately allergic to sea food (mollusks and chordate) in general.  Over the years my allergic response has grown to the point where I really can not be around shell fish at all.   Even vapors from cooking can cause an anaphylactic reaction.  I carry an epi-pen and have to be vigilant when I eat out.  However, I fully recognize that it’s far easier to avoid crustaceans than gluten, eggs, or corn.  My experiences with the allergic response (anaphylaxis) have certainly created a deep, personal understanding and empathy for all allergy sufferers.  I also have an aunt with celiac disease and my wife, along with several family members, are gluten intolerant.

More formally, my education and experiences as a doctor in an active family orientated practice supports a deep understanding of the clinical and physiological aspects of the allergic response.  Over the years, I have had many patients who have suffered from food allergies and I have learned a great deal from their situations while supporting them in the quest to regain good health. 

As undergraduates, both my wife and I worked with the autistic and developmentally disabled.  These populations have long recognized the connection between diet, allergens, and behavioral patterns.  We both remember the struggles these children and their families faced with dietary restrictions and food allergies, at a time when very few, if any, of today’s gluten free and allergen friendly food alternatives were available.

Who will be handling the day-to-day business, such as order fulfillment? Who can customers expect to talk to when they phone?
Two of Allergy Grocer’s and Miss Roben’s long time team members have committed to the next phase of company development and their expertise has been invaluable as we re-organize.  We have brought order fulfillment back in-house at our redesigned dedicated allergen friendly production plant and warehouse.  By utilizing the latest in order fulfillment technology, we have streamlined the ordering process, simplified fulfillment, and secured the lowest possible shipping rates.  In fact, Allergy Grocer will be offering free shipping with minimum orders designed to bring our products to the market in the easiest most cost effect manner possible.  We are pleased to say that these cost savings are being passed on to our customers. 

Direct phone customer service (1-888-476-3350) will be answered by Allergy Grocer’s head customer service representative, Genna.  She will handle most questions and concerns and I will personally be available to speak to our customers directly.  Also, Allergy Grocer’s new website design, www.AllergyGrocer.com, will feature direct instant messaging during normal business hours and has updated FAQ’s and resource links.     

Will Allergy Grocer still be located in Maryland or will it be relocating?
Allergy Grocer’s warehouse and Miss Roben’s dedicated allergen friendly production plant will be located in the same building in Hagerstown, Maryland as it has been for the past 14 years.     

Will the previous owner be involved in any way?
Yes, Allergy Grocer and Miss Roben’s former owner, Jay Berger, has been absolutely wonderful during the ownership transition.  We have developed a strong working relationship and I greatly respect her gluten free and allergen friendly knowledge base.  Fortunately, Jay has agreed to serve on Allergy Grocer’s and Miss Roben’s advisory panel.

Will you be producing Miss Roben's products?
Absolutely!!!  All current Miss Roben’s mixes will be available.  Miss Roben’s products fill an important need in the community with nutritional, great tasting, shelf stable, readily available, and reasonably priced gluten and allergen friendly foods.

We are actively improving current mixes and our staff is busy in our kitchen creating new mixes to add to the Miss. Roben’s line with an emphasis on taste, texture, and nutritional value.  We are also performing in-house allergen testing of both raw materials and finished goods to support final product safety.  As always, consumers can count on Miss Roben’s production facilities being a dedicated allergen friendly environment.  If your readers have any specific concerns they should feel free to contact me directly at 1-888-476-3350.          

Will there be a brick and mortar store?
At this time there are no plans for a brick and mortar store.  Our goal is to provide Miss. Roben’s mixes for sale at existing retailers; so if your readers have a favorite place to shop, we ask them to inform the proprietor about our products and encourage them to contact Miss Roben’s to stock our products.    

How will Allergy Grocer be different than before?
For 17 years, Allergy Grocer paved the way for gluten and allergy friendly food options and was a great business and pivotal service to the community.  Our mission is to continue this great service and move it forward by offering a great selection of gluten free and allergen friendly goods as well as a constant flow of hand selected new product offerings.  The website is very user friendly, dynamic, and exciting and will serve as both a product and educational resource for our clientele. 

The most noticeable change will be the “look and feel” of the Allergy Grocer website, www.AllergyGrocer.com.  It has been totally redesigned to be user friendly and features a modern and robust IT platform that will support consumers with high speed, specific product organization, and enhanced search features.  For example, customers will be able to refine product searches by brand, food type, and allergen.  Further, “custom” print catalogues will be available based of the customer’s specific needs.  If, for example, a person has a corn allergy, it makes little sense for them to have to search through hundreds of corn allergen containing products.  They will be able to filter only corn allergen free products and then either shop on-line or, if they prefer, print a catalogue directly on their home computer.

The “back-end” of Allergy Grocer has been modernized which supports efficient ordering processing, order fulfillment, and secures the lowest possible shipping rates.  In fact, we have eliminated all “handling charges” and will be offering free shipping with minimum orders.  All of which was designed to bring our products to the market in the easiest most cost efficient manner possible – and those cost savings have been passed on directly to our customers.

As we grow and develop, our goal is for Allergy Grocer to stock as many gluten free and allergen friendly products as feasible; to become a “one stop allergen free shop”.  We will work hard to carry only products that we find to be nutritious, high quality, and desirable by our clientele.  That being said, we are extremely open to consumer feedback and requests and will do what we can to build Allergy Grocer around customers’ desires.

What is the expected launch date?
www.AllergyGrocer.com is currently in beta testing and, barring complications, will be ready to launch by early October.


Unknown said...

Thanks for this great info, Food Allergy Buzz. I was so sad to see Miss Robens close the and I eagerly await their new launch in October.

Alisa - Frugal Foodie said...

You are so awesome and thorough! I just got home from a trip, and went straight to FAB in google reader to find out any news. I was excited to see this! I will post on it next week (on Go Dairy Free) with link to your interview. Such great news!

Unknown said...

Thanks for the comments! It is very exciting news, and Glenn was a great sport to answer my questions so thoroughly. :)

Anonymous said...

This is GREAT news!!! My family relies on Miss Roben's products. Best of luck to the relaunching of allergygrocer.com I look forward to visiting the new website and placing my order!!!!!!

Unknown said...

THANK YOU!!!! I was so sad that I could not get a special cake mix for my daughter's birthday in June, so I had to make fruit pops instead. I am SOOO excited to see Mrs. Robens mixes again, now we can make special treats for the holidays for my daughter with multiple food allergies! What a blessing this is, not just for my daughter, but for the food allergic population in general...THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU so much! Life as we know it has not been the same without Miss Roben's chocolate cake for b-days. The pie crust for holidays. The soft pretzel mix for snacks after school. Miss Roben's mixes have become a part of our lives for so many years. Even our relatives and friends who are not food allergic have missed the delicious chocolate chip cookies and graham crackers. My children will be thrilled if I can make an apple pie this Thanksgiving.
Food allergies in our family:
gluten-free, dairy, corn, soy, beef, tomato,
Rotates: squash, carrots, rice, orange, banana, watermelon, lettuce, cucumber, berries

NOTHING BUT GOOD WISHES FOR MUCH SUCCESS! So many people depend on your products for a quality celebration. The products make my children feel part of a celebration. Thank you for your interest in relaunching this company.
Jeanette Walsh, Syosset, NY