40ParkLane LLC: Gourmet Treats to Tempt All Five Senses

40ParkLane LLC (40ParkLane) is dedicated to all things gezellig. “Gezellig”: a Dutch word that loosely translates to cozy or pleasant, but holds a meaning that includes time spent with family, friends and even colleagues often accompanied by a good drink and great food.

40ParkLane was founded in 1998 when Hans van Putten took a chance by purchasing Massachusetts-based Carolyn’s Pecans. Over time van Putten gradually expanded the business to include all manner of high-end treats and sweets. 40ParkLane creates a variety of artisanal foods to remind consumers to slow down, linger a bit longer and make time for those who matter most.

“The company name comes from the address of my childhood home just outside of Amsterdam,” expands van Putten, president and owner of 40ParkLane. “I was fortunate enough to grow up in a loving family that really took time to get together and enjoy life European-style, which is something we want to communicate through our brands.”

As the company’s mission statement explains: “At 40ParkLane all of these wonderful sensations come to mind, but we envision so much more than the flavor, quality and complexity of deliciously prepared foods. We also revel in the artistic presentation of the food and the ambiance of the home or restaurant we are dining in, the gift card we are writing, the travel destinations we visit and the memories and photographic impressions we take away from it.”

Enjoying life is exactly what prompted van Putten to purchase Carolyn’s Pecans in the first place. His prior career at Gillette had led him to relocate six times in nine years, which became increasingly difficult to justify as his two small daughters were growing up.

Carolyn’s Pecans has since been rechristened Carolyn’s Gourmet to reflect the broader array of products under the company’s umbrella. At the time, 40ParkLane produced and packaged a variety of nut and toffee treats in retail and gift packaging in house. The company’s signature chocolate bark was soon created, marrying Carolyn’s Pecan’s award-winning original Sweet and Salty Pecans with the best milk or dark Belgian chocolate available.

Inherited Entrepreneurialism

Over the years 40ParkLane has taken gezellig to a new level, creating the Gezellig brand, including a line of chutneys, vinegars and mustards designed to accompany and enhance any meal. Both van Putten and his wife, Tracey, continue to oversee the company’s day-to-day operations, as it was Tracey’s chutney family recipes that sparked the development of the Gezellig brand.

“Both my mother’s and my father’s families were very much into design, especially because of the family’s textile business,” says van Putten. Creativity and entrepreneurialism run deep in the van Putten family, an influence that has fueled 40ParkLane’s evolution through the years. The company started out with just Carolyn’s Pecans under its wing, selling to a handful of specialty grocers, gift shops and retailers in the greater Boston area. 40ParkLane then acquired Victorian Treats, a locally based producer of tempting toffees, which prompted the company to rebrand itself as Carolyn’s Gourmet. The merge of Victorian Treats’ toffees into Carolyn’s Gourmet prompted a total packaging redesign to unify the company’s brands and increase consumer recognition.

“Having worked at Gillette, I know how important packaging can be, and at the time we had separate packaging designs for Carolyn’s Gourmet’s nuts and Victorian Treats’ toffees,” says van Putten. “So, we decided we really needed to streamline our packaging to fold all of our products into one brand.”

Fast forward a few years and 40ParkLane was developing, producing, packaging and distributing the majority of its products under the brand name Carolyn’s Gourmet from the company’s small factory in West Concord, Mass. The company’s only exception was 40ParkLane’s chocolate bark, which was sent to a local chocolatier for finishing.

Production remained at the West Concord location throughout 40ParkLane’s recent history, even as the industry began outsourcing production to overseas specialists. This was simply because the company developed a deep commitment to each product being made to order by hand in small batches, ensuring expert craftsmanship and 100-percent guaranteed freshness; something that would be impossible to copy overseas. Due to the team’s consistent perfectionism 40ParkLane caught the eye of major retailers, including Macy’s, Bloomingdales, Dillard’s and the TJX Companies.

Saving Some Room

“Our products have become more seasonal largely due to the economic climate,” explains van Putten. “We made the decision four or five years ago to begin developing a larger web presence to help balance out our revenue.”

Order production, packaging and fulfillment were occupying a significant portion of the staff’s focus. This urged the van Puttens to outsource all of the production to a network of domestic producers in 2010, which allowed more time to be spent on sales and marketing activities.

“We also decided to rebrand ourselves because customers would come into our factory in West Concord asking to meet Carolyn, even after so many years,” laughs van Putten. The husband-and-wife team eventually rechristened Carolyn’s Gourmet brand as Carolyn’s Handmade in order to highlight the handmade and artisanal nature of the treats, as well as get away from the ubiquitous nature of gourmet in today’s market. The company’s name was then legally changed to its current inception: 40ParkLane LLC.

The final legal name change allowed the company to reflect its European heritage. Soon after, the van Puttens relocated the company’s operations to Maynard, Mass., in order to refocus 40ParkLane’s strategic direction. The relocation also freed up additional overhead costs for a second time to be channeled toward increased marketing and sales efforts, especially the establishment of a multiplatform web presence.

Under the 40ParkLane name the company distributes both Carolyn’s Handmade and Gezellig products through its own retail and wholesale website, which also leaves open the possibility for 40ParkLane to represent additional brands in the future.

“Who knows where we’ll be in two to five years,” reflects van Putten. “Maybe food will only be a small part of our business, but either way we want to continue developing our web presence in every way possible.” Van Putten himself has spearheaded the development of the company’s web profiles on Facebook and Google+ in addition to refining his own account on LinkedIn.

The extra marketing emphasis seems to be paying off, with van Putten reporting strong month-to-month sales growth around 25 percent, but the van Puttens hope to accelerate that growth to the 50- to 100-percent range. Whatever new products get incorporated into the folds of the family-oriented company, the 40ParkLane LLC team will ensure every product meets the high standards for quality that the brands have always set that reinforce a feeling of gezellig.