For nearly five years, locals have come to recognize the boxy, black-labeled bottles of Gundalow Juice as one of the city’s greatest homegrown products. But, what most might not know, is that the cold-pressed juice project started out as a spinoff of a personal chef business that CEO Dana Sicko founded in 2011.
“Personal cheffing is a little more of an expensive service,” says Sicko. “But our goal has always been to make nutrition simpler for people, and the juices really exemplified that. At the time, I thought I could probably reach more people through the juice than I was able to with the personal chef business.”
While continuing to operate her catering arm, Gundalow Gourmet, Sicko began to build up Gundalow Juice—which quickly caught on with the community and became the first licenced wholesaling cold-pressed juice company in the state.
But now, after years of selling the nautical-inspired flavors (including the tangerine “Sailor’s Delight” and pineapple “Dockside Sunrise”) at local bodegas and farmers’ markets, Sicko has decided to stop production in order to focus on growing Gundalow Gourmet. She says that, as the market for healthful drinks continues to grow in the city, production costs were making it tough to keep up with the competition.
“It’s very difficult to be in the juice industry and be a bootstrapping entrepreneur,” she says. “When there are only so many hours in the day and there’s money on the table, you have to evaluate where you’re putting your resources. Gundalow Gourmet has always been there, patiently waiting. And it’s really hitting this beautiful stride.”
Though she describes the transition as bittersweet, Sicko feels proud to have paved the way for other local companies that have continued the culinary wellness trend.
“It’s a beautiful thing that there are so many options for juice now in Baltimore,” she says. “It’s such an amazing way for people to be healthy on the go, and to see that fruits and vegetables do actually taste good.”
Looking back at the past few years, Sicko says some of her favorite memories are the dance parties that occurred in Gundalow’s first production space—a tiny room in a West Baltimore warehouse.
“We played a lot of Taylor Swift,” she says with a laugh. “You have to make it fun when you’re in a 10-by-10 windowless room and doing the same thing over and over again. The team was just so amazing and so full of energy.”
The next chapter focusing on Gundalow Gourmet will allow Sicko and her team of seven personal chefs—who now work out of B-More Kitchen in Govans—to provide more office catering in Baltimore and widen the company’s footprint. Aside from expanding in Washington, D.C., Sicko is planning to split her time between Baltimore and New England to make an impact up north.
Sicko, who studied nutrition at the University of New Hampshire, is looking forward to introducing Gundalow to the New England market, while also working with her former professors to mentor budding female entrepreneurs—something she has become particularly passionate about through the years.
“I really felt called back to the area,” she explains. “My education there framed my thinking of food and inspired a lot behind Gundalow Gourmet.”
In fact, the business itself is named after a ship that was once common to the waterways of New Hampshire and Maine. Sicko credits the spirit of the company to her staff, including her mom Lisa, who will be present at Gundalow’s final farmers’ market in Fells Point this Saturday, September 22.
“Cold pressed juice is not a cheap thing,” Sicko says. “So I’ve always felt that the very least we could do was make sure that ours was the best tasting juice that you can buy for your $5. When I think about all of the incredible people I’ve met, the fans, and the team, those are the people I always wanted to make proud.”