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Maker of sauces, spreads grows its retail distribution

Roger Diez

Career counselors say that if your work is your passion, you will be happy and successful.

If that’s true, Courtney Barnes founder and owner of Gourmet Rooster, a line of savory sauces and spreads is one of the happiest and most successful people in Reno.

She’s expanding a current line of nine products, and she’s widened her company’s distribution from a Web-based model to include retailers in four states.

“I’ve always loved cooking and entertaining,” says Barnes, “but when we had kids it put a crimp in my cooking.”

She resolved to make cooking easier for families with children, and when she won a competition at a county fair in California, she decided to launch her business. A key step: Barnes found a manufacturer in Reno, Mrs. Auld’s Gourmet Foods.

“John Auld has been great to work with,” says Barnes. “We tweaked my recipes a little for commercial production, but they are still made with all natural ingredients, no preservatives or additives.”

The company’s name, as well as its paisley rooster logo, come from her love of collecting and decorating with roosters.

Barnes and husband Chris fell in love with the Reno area while working with Auld, and moved here a year and a half ago.

Currently Gourmet Rooster has nine products: four barbecue sauces, three fruit spreads, and two savory spreads.

The company also has five new products in the pipeline two salad dressings, two more fruit spreads and a spicy, sour ketchup.

Initially, Barnes marketed the products online, but in March of 2011 began putting products into stores, making sales calls with daughters Addy, 7, and Paisley, 4, in tow.

“Getting into stores was easier than I thought it would be,” Barnes said.

She currently has her product in stores in northern Nevada as well as the San Francisco Bay area and Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Locally, Barnes has won shelf space for her products at the Cheese Board on California Avenue, The Chocolate Nugget in Washoe Valley and Mound House, The Market on South Virginia, The Nevada Store on Lakeside Court, The Flag Store on Glendale in Sparks, Genoa Country Store in Genoa, Maynard Station in Virginia City, Vino 100 on Steamboat Parkway, and the Wet Hen Cafe on South McCarran.

Barnes said she finds northern Nevada companies making similar products to be friendly and helpful and many of them are part of the Made in Nevada network.

Starting the business, however, was a challenge.

“We had to do it on our own with savings, because we couldn’t get a bank loan,” she said. “Because of this we expanded a little more slowly than we might have otherwise.”

Much of the company’s marketing has been low-cost.

For instance, Barnes does a recipe blog twice a week at http://gourmetrooster.blogspot.com, she is working on a cookbook that incorporates the company’s products, and she’s becoming more active in her new hometown.

The current economy has been a mixed blessing for the business.

“People are entertaining at home more, and use Gourmet Rooster to make their dishes fancy,” said Barnes. “On the other hand, a lot of small stores are struggling.”

But she keeps a long-term vision ahead of herself financing the education of her children with the company, and then leaving it to them.