Corey Mitchell is building a salsa empire right under your noses

Where the magic happens.
Where the magic happens.
The break room at Mitchell’s Fresh is complete with a pool table and a sign that affirms your suspicion that your parents are wrong.
The break room at Mitchell’s Fresh is complete with a pool table and a sign that affirms your suspicion that your parents are wrong.
Corey Mitchell loves his chips and salsa so much that he likes to pose for pictures with them.
Corey Mitchell loves his chips and salsa so much that he likes to pose for pictures with them.

If you can read (which we assume all of you can), it won’t be hard to figure out what Corey Mitchell puts in his homemade salsas and dips. He puts the ingredients right on the labels.

But Mitchell spent years perfecting his recipes and knows it won’t be easy to replicate his line of Mitchell’s Fresh products.

“Anybody can try and copy it, they just won’t have our special touch,” Mitchell said.

With a product line that features eight flavors of salsa – mild, medium, hot, burn your mouth, chipotle, pineapple, bruschetta and salsa verde – and six dip concoctions (spinach, artichoke, buffalo, blue caesar, sweet pepper and queso), Mitchell has taken his company from a one-man operation to one that produces thousands of pounds of scoopable deliciousness in a given week. But one thing that hasn’t changed is the attention to detail and the use of all-natural fresh ingredients. Try one and you’ll see how your mom was wrong about the whole being fresh thing. Mitchell says so in his slogan, and we’re not sure why, but we believe him.

After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, commonly known as the other CIA, Mitchell worked at restaurants in Boston, Maine and Florida. He then spent 15 years as a personal chef for people like Dick Wolf (yes the same Dick Wolf who brought us Law & Order) and Rick Bourke (famous for his pocketbook company). He also cooked for celebs like Michael Jordan, Martha Stewart and Kurt Russell. Talk about the ability to name drop in a casual conversation.

That’s where he created and perfected his salsa recipe. And then one day hanging out with his brother, Sean, the idea for the business came up.

“We’re sitting around the kitchen table eating it and he said, ‘You should sell this,’ Mitchell remembers.“I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I guess I always probably wanted to be my own boss.”

Without a job and a mortgage to pay, in the spring of 2006 Mitchell rented a little kitchen in Manchester, chose a container size and had labels made. He made his mild and hot salsa daily and would load up his green pickup truck with coolers filled with ice (and of course the salsa) and drive around to stores looking for potential customers.

“I just started peddling it,” he said. “I would make it and deliver it.”

Mitchell gave out samples and did tastings – something we wish we could have been a part of – to try to generate some interest. That also led to his recipe for tortilla strips. Because really, what is salsa without a good chip? We’ll tell you what, just not the same.

“I got into chips because whenever I’d demo the salsa I’d take chips off the shelves,” Mitchell said. “And people really like our recipe.”

He traveled all over New England and it worked. That summer he bought a van and put a refrigeration unit in it so he could haul more product and eventually graduated to a small box truck complete with a room and sliding door.

“For the first three years I made salsa just about every day,” Mitchell said.

And as the business grew, so did his flavors and required space. Less than a year after debuting Mitchell’s Fresh, Mitchell built a kitchen off of North State Street and spent three years there. Then, once again, he needed something bigger.

“By the time we got out of there we could barely move in the walk-in (cooler),” he said.
Now one thing you should know is that Mitchell loves Concord. It’s where he spent most of his childhood, where he lives now with his wife, Cassandra, and two children, Madelyn and Bo, and the place his business developed.

So even though Mitchell’s Fresh is technically made over the city line in Bow, and has been for the last four years, Mitchell still considers his salsa and dip conglomerate a Concord business. No offense to the good people of Bow (at least that’s what we’re told since we can’t actually leave the city limits most days), but as a fourth generation Concordian, Mitchell wants his business’s name to be synonymous with New Hampshire’s capital.

“To me, it’s part of Concord,” Mitchell said.

Nowadays, Mitchell doesn’t make a whole lot of salsa. He’s got a staff that takes care of that, and it’s one he has full confidence in.

“They can do it blindfolded,” he said.

The shelf life of Mitchell’s salsas and dips is six weeks, and the goal is to have most of that time spent in your refrigerator.

“We never leave anything in that walk-in for more than a week,” Mitchell said. “Most times we’re making something one day and it’s going out the next.”

In addition to smaller stores like Concord Beef and Seafood and the Concord Co-op, Mitchell’s Fresh can be found in places like Hannaford and all the way down the East Coast to Florida. Concord Hospital buys the single-sized grab-and-go portions, while the Concord School District uses the bag-o-taco, which includes salsa, strips and cilantro sour cream, for school lunches.

And he makes it a fun place to work, complete with a pool table, beer tap and all the salsa and dip his employees want to make.

As far as any new flavors in the future, who knows what Mitchell has planned? You’ll just have to stay tuned and find out.

Author: Tim Goodwin

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