Innovator: Goldbely Wants to Be the Etsy of Gourmet Food
Just a little warning to our readers, don’t continue reading if you are at all hungry. Joe Ariel (pictured above eating a PP&J sandwich), the founder of Eats.com and the former CEO of Delivery.com has a new food venture, Goldbely, and it is quite literally a mouthwatering start-up. The premise is that Goldbely offers one stop shopping for some of your favorite regional foods from around the US, allowing them to easily be ordered online and then shipped directly to you at home. Want a deep-dish pizza from the famous Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria in Chicago, but you live in Los Angeles? The pizzas are packed with dry ice in coolers and shipped directly to you (our favorite feature is that you can select various toppings). The same goes for ordering Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams in flavors like wildberry lavender and salty caramel from Columbus, Ohio and lobster rolls from Hancock Gourmet Lobster in Maine (pictured below). We chatted with Ariel about the concept, how he taste tested food from around the country in anticipation of the launch, and what’s selling the best.
The Vivant: Tell us about how Goldbely came about.
Goldbely Founder and CEO Joe Ariel: My background is in food and technology. I’ve been in food for the past ten years, and my passion has always been regional American comfort food. A lot of people use the word regional, and it has this connotation of fancy stuff, but the great American stuff isn’t always the fanciest. I started to think through my network of places—the BBQ places in the South for instance. The types of things that you always think, “I wish I could have that right now.” That’s the how the premise came about to offer a curated selection of great American foods that you can order online. We worked on the site for eight to ten months after we conceptualized the idea, and I got to travel to different cities around the country sampling products.
How did you ultimately pick the selection on the site?
I know the industry hit list, and we have almost all of them, but it’s a constantly ongoing process. We are really looking for iconic products, with a great history, unique products, things with a story. Finding products that have the capability for mail order. So we have deep-dish pizzas from Chicago. Macadamia nut pies from Hawaii. The BBQ product is great. It’s not just about the best merchants, but its about the signature ones—like Zabar’s in New York, and bringing the customer classic New York bagels.
Tell us about the logistics. Shipping ice cream doesn’t seem so easy!
When you order from Goldbely it is coming direct from the source. We are the intermediary that is helping with discovery, helping people find the perfect Key lime pie from Florida or a beef dish from Memphis. As the market grows we will potentially provide mail order boxes and logistics, but not yet.
What did you learn from your experience at Delivery.com?
Customer service is key to doing something really well. I learned about taking local businesses and making them national in scope. When you do that you have a lot of obligations to your customer.
Is anyone competing in this space?
There are definitely a lot of other players. 1-800-Flowers and Harry & David [for instance]. But as far as offering nostalgic and regional foods and bringing them national—no. We are really hoping to be the Etsy of gourmet food.
What’s the biggest challenge ahead?
Getting the word out for people to explore food on their own, and creating that culture. It wasn’t that long ago that people doubted that shoppers would buy a pair of sneakers or clothing online, which is something to remember.
What have been the most popular items so far?
The deep-dish pizzas have been really popular. The seafood from Maine. The ribs from Memphis. And all the pies. Everybody loves the pies.