Broom­field startup U-LUV gain­ing fans, new mar­kets

Woman be­gan mak­ing gluten-free cook­ies for hus­band with cancer

The Denver Post - - DENVER & THE WEST - By Ali C Watkins

The Tar­tari­nis’ cookie com­pany startup, U-LUV Foods LLC, might be de­scribed as mom’s bak­ing with a ve­gan, al­lergy-con­scious twist.

Owned and op­er­ated by four fam­ily mem­bers, the Broom­field-based com­pany is gain­ing fans for its sweet treats.

U-LUV in Jan­uary started sell­ing on Ama­zon along with its own e-com­merce web­site. With the ex­po­sure on Ama­zon, sales spiked, said JJ Tar­tarini, a com­pany co-founder who serves as vice pres­i­dent of sales. In its first month, 40 bags of cook­ies were sold. Now the small team of four fam­ily mem­bers is sell­ing more than 200 bags a week.

By the time U-LUV turns a year old this sum­mer, its cook­ies will hit Rocky Moun­tain re­gion Whole Foods shelves. Whole Foods has not com­mented on how many stores will sell U-LUV cook­ies.

U-LUV had its roots in the scratch cook­ing Deb­bie Tar­tarini pre­pared for her fam­ily. But the idea for the com­pany re­ally came to­gether when she started bak­ing gluten-free treats for her hus­band, Jim Tar­tarini, af­ter he was di­ag­nosed with stom­ach cancer in the early 2000s. Nearly a decade later she started tak­ing cin­na­mon rolls to local farm­ers mar­kets with her sons JJ and Joel Tar­tarini.

The farm­ers mar­ket stand turned into Bow­beas LLC, a gluten-free cookie com­pany. It op­er­ated from 2013 un­til last year, clos­ing to put en­ergy into U-LUV.

The fam­ily’s first busi­ness didn’t cater to as many di­etary and al­lergy re­stric­tions as ULUV.

JJ Tar­tarini said his mother’s tal­ent with baked goods and the nec­es­sary diet change for his father’s health led to the birth of a com­pany.

“My mom al­ways had a gift of bak­ing. And so, the two kind of came to­gether, and it took us a while to kind of make it into some­thing but the real starter came from this forced diet change,” said JJ Tar­tarini.

U-LUV’S cook­ies are free of milk, eggs, fish, shell­fish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soy­beans.

They also are ve­gan and crafted in small batches.

There are three fla­vors: snick­er­doo­dle, spicy gin­ger and brownie. Deb­bie Tar­tarini de­vel­ops the recipes.

U-LUV’S mis­sion state­ment is “Cook­ies with com­pas­sion.”

Around 10% of U-LUV’S rev­enues are do­nated to var­i­ous causes, such as Den­ver Dream Cen­ter, a Chris­tian-based non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion and church that sup­ports teens and chil­dren, JJ Tar­tarini said.

In step with that mis­sion, the com­pany also has started giv­ing away a bot­tle of hand san­i­tizer with ev­ery three-pack pur­chase in re­sponse to the coro­n­avirus pan­demic and the de­mand for san­i­tizer.

The com­pany bought Fed­eral Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion and World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion-ap­proved san­i­tizer in bulk from a Den­ver man­u­fac­turer and is pack­ag­ing it in 30 mil­li­liter glass bot­tles to ship out with its treats, JJ Tar­tarini said.

“We want to be able to do more than just make good cook­ies, or good snacks that are good for you. We want to have a mis­sion that peo­ple can get be­hind and they can ac­tu­ally be part of,” he said.

Work­ing with fam­ily isn’t al­ways sweet and the Tar­tari­nis had to learn how to sep­a­rate per­sonal and pro­fes­sional spa­ces as their com­pany keeps grow­ing, JJ Tar­tarini said.

“We’ve had to learn how to check that at the door and put bound­aries around things so that when come Easter, come Christ­mas, come these other things, it’s not a U-LUV Foods sales meet­ing,” he said.

Pho­tos by Jeremy Pa­passo, Daily Cam­era

U-LUV Foods co-founder Joel Tar­tarini puts a tray of cook­ies on a rack April 28 be­fore bak­ing them to fill cus­tomer or­ders in Broom­field. The com­pany is in­clud­ing a free bot­tle of Amer­i­can-made san­i­tizer with each cookie three-pack or­der as a re­sponse to the pan­demic.

Tar­tarini makes spicy gin­ger cook­ies. The com­pany’s cook­ies are free of milk, eggs, fish, shell­fish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soy­beans.

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