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New York state products great in 'The Empire Crate'

New York state products great in 'The Empire Crate'

An entrepreneurial young couple from Stillwater is launching The Empire Crate, a business that will
New York state products great in 'The Empire Crate'
Brianne and Brandon Dingeman of Stillwater arrange some of the New York state regional food products that will be shipped by their new business, The Empire Crate.
Photographer: Stephen Williams

Brooks Barb-B-Q Sauce from Oneonta, spiedie sauce from Binghamton, cookies from Brooklyn, grape juice bottles with hand-lettered labels from Ithaca.

All are regional specialty food products, the kind you'll find packed into an order from The Empire Crate.

An entrepreneurial young couple from Stillwater is launching The Empire Crate, a business that will gather those items and other regional food products from around New York state, and ship them to customers once a month.

The first of the Empire Crates will sent out in mid-November, said Brandon Dingeman, who is launching the start-up with his wife, Brianne. Each month's shipment will be different, containing anywhere from five to seven items, purchased from geographically varied parts of the state.

"We'll try to make it as diverse as possible and have it represent the diversity of New York through different regional specialties," said Brandon Dingeman, 34, who grew up in Saratoga Springs.

Between he and Brianne, 31, who grew up in Amsterdam and Fort Johnson, they said they have lived in 18 different places in the state, giving them a chance to sample many different local foods.

"You don't realize how many people are out there making stuff," Brianne said.

Now, they've settled down in a rural corner of Stillwater and have a five-month-old daughter, Charley. The Dingemans each have other jobs, but will be working in their spare time to get the new business off the ground.

"It's a fun thing to get into," Brandon said. "We go to farmer's markets, we travel all over the state and we talk to these people who are so passionate and committed to what they do."

Their focus is on buying products from small companies - the kind where the owner is often the person who picks up the phone.

Among the companies Empire Crate has placed orders with is Gatherer's Granola in Schenectady. Founder-owner Sandro Gerbini said he's promoted the start-up through the granola company's Facebook page and customer network.

Gerbini said the concept of a New York state product basket is appealing, though only time will tell whether it can succeed.

"I love the idea of grouping a bunch of products together that share a common theme or regional identity, like in this case where it's sharing the variety of regional specialties in New York state," Gerbini said.

The Dingemans said they came up with the idea of the Empire Crate while living in Astoria, Queens, where they saw a lot of small-batch, homemade food products being sold.

Crate-packing will take place in their home. Among goods they've already purchased for future shipments are mustard from New York City, pumpkin seeds from Kendall, macaroons from Ithaca, Saratoga Crackers from Middle Grove and potato chips from Long Island.

"We're trying to do things that would be difficult to find in a grocery store," Brandon said. "A lot of these companies are only one or two people."

The cost is $39.95 per month. Subscribers will receive a shipment of hand-selected products, along with a flyer telling the stories of the people behind some of the products. There are discounts available for pre-paid three- and six-month orders.

The potential market, the couple said, includes New York state residents, people who have moved away but still want foods from home regions, and New Yorkers who are in the military.

Information on ordering is available by visiting www.empirecrate.com or calling 518-227-1233.

Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

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