WESTLAND (WXYZ) - Sgt Romanowski VFW post 6896 in Westland hardly looks like the headquarters for a Mexican food empire. But it will be if Patrick Schwager gets his way.
Schwager is the driving business force behind what used to be his mother's salsa sideline. Lydia Alcala Schwager, who grew up in a large Mexican-American family would mix up batches of salsa and take them to parties. Her friend Mary Ellen convinced her to start selling the salsa.
Because deli-style salsa is complicated to make, store and ship, Lydia and Mary Ellen came up with "dry salsa"... packets of spices and ingedients that can be mixed with canned or fresh tomato. They named it after Lydia's family nickname "Aunt Nee". It was an invention that came just in time for the Schwager family.
"We were pretty much unemployed at one point," Patrick Schwager says, "my mom, my dad... I lost my job in my last year of college.This thing kind of kept us afloat."
Lydia agees. "From us going to the street fares, etcetera we were able to make our house payment, pay his last semester of tuition. It kept us afloat."
For the first four years Lydia says the vast numbers of family and friends that helped grow Aunt Nee's Fresh Food weren't paid a dime. Finally this year that's changing. Patrick has a business degree from U of M, Dearborn and is using that knowledge to create a Mexican food empire. "Expansion and growth," he says is the business plan.
For a closer look at Aunt Nee's and a list of where you can get her products, including the salsa that saved the family, go to www.auntnees.com.
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