By Joe Palumbo
If asked to name the most popular tasty food favorites, certainly pizza, hot dogs and burgers would win, hands down. But suppose someone was to name Jamaican-style patties. The response just might be “you’re kidding.”
These flaky, golden pastry turnovers with tasty beef fillings may be one of the best-kept popular food secrets. The leading producer of this product is Tower Isle’s. I met with Inna Solomone, who has a Bayside location, to find out more about it.
Solomone said the company goes wherever the business is. And there is quite a demand for the product, which is not just limited to major supermarkets in Queens. Tower Isle’s can boast that it is the No. 1 manufacturer of Jamaican-style patties throughout the United States.
Solomone invited me to the company’s production facility, which is approximately 30,000 square feet, and I met with the president, Beryl Levi. When entering the building, you see a large framed poster emphasizing the importance of the customer.
The company’s focus is on producing the best quality product and on customer satisfaction, Levi said. I received what I was told was a rare tour of the operation, where Levi pointed out that one facet of the company’s success is to use only fresh quality products.
And the facility is absolutely spotless. Human hands never touch the food being produced, said Levi, who added that the company’s employees are like a family. This became quite obvious with the smiles and happy demeanor of the entire staff and with their referring to Levi as “Mom.”
I also received a little history on Jamaican-style patties. The actual origin of “patties” is Britain, where they were called “pastries.” After gaining popularity in Jamaica, the local populace somehow just did not get the pronunciation of “pastries” down and hence came the term “patties.”
Both Levi and Solomone pointed out the ever-continuing growth potential of this product. Competition in this market is strictly ethnic, but Levi pointed out that they brand their crust to insure against imitation. And sales are not limited to just supermarkets. Schools, hospitals, convenience stores, various concessions stands, stadiums, hotels, many pizza parlors and even correctional facilities offer the patties.
I got to sample one while visiting. OK, I confess, I had two, but that’s because they are really quite delicious. So how’s business with Jamaican-style patties? Levi responded quickly with “great.” From what I observed, I would agree, and if this company would ever entertain the notion of going public, I would not mind being the underwriter.
Joe Palumbo is the fund manager for The Palco Group, Inc. and can be reached at email@example.com or 718-461-8317.