One of Vincent van Gogh’s most enduring legacies was his use of color. His ability to blend, shade and highlight, creating lasting works of art through nuanced detail.
A similar artistic spirit is what drives Jerri Graham, founder of Nothin’ But, a Westport-based granola and snack bar company.
Sure, at first blush, it seems a stretch to compare a granola bar to a masterpiece like Starry Night. But not if you’ve spent a little time talking and tasting with Graham.
“I look at oats like a blank canvas,” she explains. “I can layer different flavors and variations over them. And texture is incredibly important. I want the whole experience of eating these bars to be under your nose rather than in your face.”
There is no doubt that Graham’s goal is ambitious. “This is a lifestyle product,” she says. “My standards are incredibly high. I only use organic oats, dried fruits and whole nuts and seeds. Most granola bars out there grind and macerate all the ingredients. At Nothin’ But, we don’t crush our nuts,” she laughs.
Graham has layered some serious deliciousness over her organic oats. With bars flavored with cinnamon, currant and pecan, or cherry, cranberry and almond, she has created mini-masterpieces of her own.
Of all the flavors I tasted—and I tasted them all—two rose to Starry Night status in my book: the Red, White and Blue bar—a blend of red cherries, white chocolate and blueberries; and the ginger, lemon cashew bar. This one truly tastes better than it has a right to, blending vaguely Asian flavors into a mildly spicy and savory treat. I don’t know if they eat granola bars in Thailand, but if they do, they probably taste a lot like this one.
But, like any artist, Graham had some trouble getting focused on the business end of things. “I just kept playing around in my kitchen, sometimes through the middle of the night. At some point I had 69 different flavors of bars.”
That’s when she joined forces with her current business partner, Westporter Steven Laitmon.
“I was eating one of her granola bars that I bought at a coffee shop,” explains Laitmon. “It was so good and so totally different from anything else out there, that I grabbed my phone and called her right away. I said, ‘Your product is really delicious. If you need any help marketing this, I would be happy to work with you.”
That was a little over a year ago. In the intervening months, Laitmon and Graham have streamlined the business, focusing on seven or eight different bar flavors. Nothin’ But bars are now available everywhere from the Westport Farmers’ Market to Port Chester’s Tarry Market to the celebrated New York City market, Eli’s. And at the end of January, the national frozen yogurt sensation, Pinkberry, began serving Nothin’ But loose granola topping in the Greenwich and Fairfield locations as part of its localized initiative program.
“It’s really about putting some quality into what you’re doing,” says Graham. “I believe in karmic repercussions. When people spend their money, they should get real quality in return. That’s really where the name Nothin’ But came from. There’s nothing but good stuff in there.”
Nothing but good stuff, nuanced flavors and a passion for her culinary art. But like any work of art, you really need to experience it for yourself.