Marjorie Tarter co-owns the Hudson Valley Marshmallow Co. in Beacon with her husband, Brendan McAlpine.
As a child, did you dream of owning a marshmallow store?
I wish we had a cute origin story! I have a background in fashion marketing, and Brendan is a real-estate attorney. We had a friend who was a pastry chef in the city, and one of the most delicious things she made was flavored marshmallows. After running a bakery for 10 or 12 years, she approached us to take over.
Why did you?
Friends were like, “What do you know about bakeries?” But our thought process was, if you make something delicious and the customer experience is great, it’s going to be a slam dunk. We knew we wanted to open a little shop to introduce our concept to the public. We re-branded with the Hudson Valley name, and here we are. If you can’t have fun selling marshmallows, you’re doing something wrong.
Is Valentine’s Day your busiest time of the year? Or maybe Easter?
It’s Christmas and Hanukkah. We do stocking stuffers like hot cocoa bars and a Christmas “coal.” Our holiday season was so bonkers this year we ran out of vanilla marshmallows for two weeks.
Do you sell marshmallows outside of Beacon?
The big chunk of our business is wholesale. We have smaller retailers as well as grocery chains such as Whole Foods and Adams. We never thought we would have national sales, although we’d go to the fancy-food trade shows and I knew we were on to something because we had people sneaking back for samples pretending they hadn’t already been twice before.
Why do people who don’t like marshmallows seem to like yours?
We’re using ingredients with names you can pronounce, and we’re a bit less sweet. And you can have a handful for about 80 calories. There are no disgruntled customers. The store is where we experiment with flavors and learn what will make it to the big time. Coconut and coffee are doing well, although we’ve had some fails: the everything-bagel marshmallow, the pizza marshmallow — that was definitely a no-go. You can’t win ’em all.