By Eileen Weber
Mornings are chaotic at my house, so breakfast usually consists of a fruit smoothie. I don’t really have time for much more. By 11:00 a.m., I am starving. And by starving, I mean devouring my own intestines. So what’s a girl to do when she needs a quick pick-me-up? Grab an 8 to the Bar!
If you haven’t seen these protein-packed little beauties, you need to check them out. Calling them a granola bar is like referring to Marilyn Monroe as just another blonde. This is a step above. It’s 2.4 ounces of dense and chewy goodness. Only organic ingredients and local, unfiltered, raw honey with dried fruits, whole nuts, and seeds you can actually see. Absolutely no guesswork involved as to what’s in it. It’s even gluten-free.
Co-owners and cousins-in-law Jim Bruno and Kathy Monahan launched their snack bar in farmer’s’ markets first before moving on to other shops. The bar is Bruno’s recipe. After Monahan tasted it at a family gathering—and after a few too many glasses of wine—they decided to go into business together.
A couple of years and commercial kitchens later, they’ve taken their business (she’s in Westport; he’s in Darien) to Bridgeport and are currently working out of a catering kitchen on Brewster Street. They noted that they’re already running out of storage space. Their business has just skyrocketed. You can find them in the Double L Market, The Organic Market, Palmer’s Market, Walter Stewart’s Market, Stiles, The Pantry, Steam Coffeehouse, Olivette, Arogya Tea, Kaia Yoga, Collyer Catering and a growing list of specialty stores from Florida to Kansas. The bar retails around $4.00, plus or minus 50 cents. They’re eyeing Whole Foods Market as the next big hurdle.
“I think if we keep plugging along, people will find us,” said Bruno.
8 to the Bar—eight nuts and fruits—is also a musical reference (a nod to Bruno’s career as a musician and recording engineer). It means eight notes of music per measure. With usually a four bar measure, the tempo is double time. And that’s exactly how Bruno and Monahan have been working. It’s still just the two of them doing all the work. Bruno said from production to delivery, it’s about six to eight hours. Now that’s fresh!
“It’s been stressful,” said Monahan. “I said to Jim, ‘We’re either brilliant or crazy.’ He said, ‘I think we’re both!’”
Crazy or not, this product is a winner. They even created their own mold from a miter box to make the bars perfectly cut and symmetrical every time. And for those little leftovers that aren’t quite package-worthy, they’ve got a bag of “accidentals.” That way, nothing gets wasted.
Bruno and Monahan made the point of saying they are really picky with their ingredients, too. Most of them come from organic purveyors. Their walnuts, however, come directly from a farmer in California. No middleman. But while they only use organic ingredients and no GMOs, they cannot put the organic seal on the package because the honey is local but not organic.
“In order to get certified,” said Monahan, “you have to be 95% organic and we’re just slightly under that. Something like 93%.”
Bruno and Monahan say they work really well together. As they put it, they “yin and yang” each other. As much as Monahan is running out of the gate, Bruno is reeling her back in with a not-so-fast mentality. They keep a good balance.
“She’s good with people,” he said. “I’m good with the back end of production and cooking.”
And for those that need to know, the bar is also dairy-free. That was an important point for Bruno’s wife, Donna. She can’t have dairy. But you don’t have to have dietary restrictions to eat it. It’s a great option for anyone on the go. Crunchy, yet soft and pliable. Tasty and sweet without feeling drowned in sugar. The perfect snack!
Want to find out more information? Check out 8 to the Bar on their web site or Facebook and Twitter. They list all their ingredients online and even the nutritional information. Got a question or want to place an order? E-mail Jim Bruno and Kathy Monahan at firstname.lastname@example.org.