If You Build a vomFASS Franchise…They Will Come!

Published September 26, 2014
By Toni Jakovec

VomFASS Des Moines was the 6th franchise to open in the United States. In our ongoing series profiling early franchises, we had a chance to talk with vomFASS Des Moines owner, Melissa Bartholomew.

Melissa pic

Toni Jakovec: Good afternoon Melissa. Tell us, how long has your store been open?

Melissa Bartholomew: We’ve been open about two and half years. This coming March will be our third anniversary.

TJ: How many employees did you start off with?

MB: Let’s see, we had 2 full time employees and 3 part time.

TJ: What is your employee situation today?

MB: It’s exactly the same staff I had when I opened the store. However, I did lose one of my part time employees just this summer. He was our chef of the house and he will be missed. So now I’m looking for another part timer, plus of course, seasonal help to get us through the holidays.

TJ: Wow, you have great stability in your store. That speaks very highly of you as a manager.

MB: Yes, we’ve had some very good people and I’ve been very fortunate. I would love to see one of the seasonal people grow into another full time staff member. I would like to see a sales person/events coordinator position evolve. We currently do a lot of events, but I would like to do a lot more.

TJ: Melissa, is it still as much fun to run the store as it was in the beginning?

MB: I think it’s more fun, because now I know what I’m doing!There’s not as much guess work involved.Although I certainly learn something new every day, it’s not as intense as it was in the beginning.I know what works and what doesn’t work.It’s definitely more fun now, because I really have a good handle on how to run the store smoothly. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly don’t have everything figured out one hundred percent.I still strive every day to bump up sales and keep my events fresh and exciting.

TJ: Do you feel that you are now a vital part of the Des Moines community?

MB: Yes I do.Of course, we still have customers after two and half years who come into the store that have not been here before, which I understand.We have a loyal customer base who come in each week with their empty bottles . These loyal customers talk to their friends, and that word of mouth recommendation is an important way to get new customers into the store. Now that the community knows us, they love to bring in their visiting friends and family.I had customers in today, who said every time they visit Des Moines, vomFASS is on their “must see” list.Also, as a part of the community, we are asked to participate in a lot of community events.These events offer us much more, from a marketing perspective, than print ads.I love to participate in as many of these community events as possible.

TJ: Do you have events that have proved particularly successful over the years?

MB: No question, our top selling events are our spirit classes. As soon as I announce a class in our newsletter, it’s sold out. They’re so popular we typically add another class so everyone can be accommodated. We do introduction to whiskeys, scotch classes and we have a class coming up focusing on brandies, and cocktails of course. These classes are always full. The amazing thing is, we get a lot of the same customers. While they are enjoying one class they will sign up for another! These classes have become social events for our customers. At the class last week, we had some regular customers and two new customers. By the end of the class, they had all signed up for the brandy class and wanted to sit at the same table! I love stories like this, where people are meeting new friends at our classes. Our customers love these events. They are excited to learn about the spirits and they thoroughly enjoy the social aspect.

TJ: Do you get a good mix of men and women at these classes?

MB: We do, although the scotch classes skew a bit more towards the men.

TJ: Now that vomFASS is 20 years old, what changes have you seen?

MB: Certainly the marketing has improved. Now, when we want to have a promotion, corporate is very responsive getting us the brochures, banners or whatever items we need. Corporate has improved tremendously offering franchisees newsletter and Facebook content, images for our use and wonderful recipes. We used to do all of this on our own, so I am very grateful for this kind of marketing assistance. Now that corporate has

put “out of the box” marketing material together, we are able to tailor the materials to our particular in-store and online needs.

TJ: What has been the growth rate of your store over the years?

MB: We opened in March, so we didn’t have a full year in 2012, but for those nine months it was really off the charts with all of the opening publicity. We got off to a really good start. We are currently running at a 7% growth rate, but we are striving for 10%. It’s all about our events and getting people into the store.

TJ: Absolutely. What are your favorite vomFASS products?

MB: This is such a difficult question to answer, because it really depends on what I’m cooking. Certainly my go-to is the Waldburg Balsam Calamansi Vinegar, as it is with most people because of its versatility. I’m sure it’s the one I use the most. I use it with rice and cilantro, on seafood, hummus, ice tea, you name it. In the summer I love the Waldburg Balsam Fig Chili Star Vinegar with barbecue. I also love the Fig Chili in dark chocolate desserts, especially lava cakes.

TJ: Would you please share one of your wonderful recipes?

MB: Absolutely. Here’s my favorite orange cake, made with vomFASS Orange Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

TJ: Great interview Melissa. Thanks so very much.

Melissa’s Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Cake

Enjoy Melissa Bartholomew’s of vomFASS Des Moines delicious vomFASS Orange Extra Virgin Olive Oil Cake


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • Pinch of vomFASS salt
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup vomFASS Orange Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • vomFASS Star Forest Raspberry Balsam Vinegar (optional)


  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9- or 10-inch cake pan with vegetable oil spray or lightly oil it. Cut a piece of parchment to fit the bottom of the pan and lightly spray or oil it.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, whisk the sugar and eggs until the color lightens somewhat. Add milk, olive oil and vanilla extract and whisk to combine.
  3. Add the flour mixture in three additions, mixing well between each one. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted toward the middle of the cake comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool on a rack for 10 minutes and then invert the cake onto a cooling rack. Wrap in plastic wrap when completely cool. The cake will keep for about 2 days. It also freezes really well wrapped in plastic wrap.
  4. To Serve garnish with a dollop of whipped cream (flavored with vomFASS Star Forest Raspberry Vinegar if you like) and fresh raspberries.

Serves 10.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended as an offer to sell, or the solicitation of an offer to buy, a franchise. It is for information purposes only. Currently, the following states in the United States regulate the offer and sale of franchises: California, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. If you are a resident of one of these states, we will not offer you a franchise unless and until we have complied with applicable pre-sale registration and disclosure requirements in your jurisdiction.