Once stated, her pun is painfully obvious. It has been there the whole time, and it is certainly not the first instance in which it has been employed in such conversation, but Iris McCallister takes her business very seriously; when the words pass her lips, it’s a strong downshift in the conversation.
“You know,” she says, betraying a slight smirk. “They’re great for scoring brownie points.”
The pun may be bad, but the point is a strong one – learned from experience.
Several years ago, when McCallister was operating her residential and commercial concierge service in Phoenix, one of the aspects of the job was finding small – but meaningful – gifts to send to her clients, or potential clients. Finding something that suited each client uniquely eventually became the part of the operation that she most enjoyed – she would often spend hours at a time searching for the right trinket or memento to send a client. The perfect gift, after all, would say volumes about how much she appreciated their patronage.
Upon moving to Dallas and seeking full-time occupation, McCallister decided that she wanted to make those perfect gifts herself. And that more often than not, great brownies make the perfect gift. Oh*Brownie was soon born.
“In my old business, I would often give our clients gifts to help to get or keep an account, so I would usually have to go out there and find something. Well, my favorite childhood treat is a brownie, and I thought, ‘Why not come up with a brownie line and create the packaging around it?’ I wanted to sell something that’s real, that’s tangible and can be truly enjoyed,” says McCallister . “And since I’ve been a child, I have always loved giving gifts – I love making people smile. There’s nothing more gratifying then when somebody smiles and says ‘wow, that was really good.’”
It has been a road of patience and production (‘Making a great brownie is not as easy as a lot of people think it is,’ she says), but four years after coming up with the idea for Oh*Brownie, McCallister is seeing her dream come to life. Oh*Brownie has grown into a company whose products can be seen on the shelves of markets and shops around the city, tempting those chocolate lovers whose eyes catch their presence. But even more gratifying than that, McCallister says, is when gift-givers, whether they’re from Dallas or from across the country, look her way to provide that perfect token for someone else. It’s more than an indication that Oh*Brownie is headed in the right direction – it’s a sign that McCallister’s hard work and patience is paying off.
“When I was pregnant, my husband (Dallas chef Matt McCallister) and I were constantly working on the brownie – we went through seventy-something different recipes before we landed on the perfect one. And I thought I was going to give birth to a brownie,” she says with a laugh. “And we did a lot of taste tests; we ordered brownies from around the country that were recognized for awards and we sampled them. Then we tried to make one that was better.”
But it wasn’t just Iris and Matt who were doing the tasting. Being plugged in to the Dallas culinary scene has its benefits, one of which is asking fellow professionals to eat a copious amount of brownies and asking for their feedback.
“We had some people sample ours – Rich Rogers from Scardello and Vicki Petersen at Paper and Chocolate. And Vicki was actually pretty harsh. A few times I’d come to her and she would just say ‘It’s not good.’ And I’d go back and I’d just keep reworking the recipe,” McCallister says. “But finally, when she and Rich both said that they thought it was a really good brownie, we knew we had something a lot of people would really love.”
What Iris McCallister had been seeking – ‘Moist, a little chewy and with a wonderful chocolate flavor,’ she says she had finally found. But she soon found that was merely the first step; now that the recipe had been perfected, she had to decide what would be the best way to present her new product.
“The biggest thing after making them, though, was making sure that we used our packaging to make sure they were friendly and modern, but most importantly, approachable. I didn’t want to put something stuffy out there,” she says. “We wanted something that everybody could enjoy.”
And while Rogers and Petersen – and even her own husband – all have claims to the most refined of palates, creating something that everyone can enjoy isn’t just lip service for McCallister. Her greatest pleasure with Oh*Brownie comes from praise of a different demographic.
“The biggest compliment is when a kid tells us that they love the brownie. Because I’m not going after just my husband’s taste buds, I’m going after everybody’s taste buds,” she says. “It’s really important to me that children love our brownies. When a mom emails me that their kid loves them, that’s an incredible feeling.”
One might even say it scores a few brownie points.
For more information on Oh*Brownie, please visit their website.