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Think of it - years and years of lamb with mint sauce, Brussels sprouts, sherry trifle and other staid English fare - it can do strange things to a man. Eventually, instinctively, inevitably, the taste buds will be drawn to the spicier side of life. We think that's why Liverpool-born Robin Shepherd took such a shine to the idea of a company founded on an unwavering commitment to stuff that tastes good. One taste of Caribbean Condiment and he was hooked.
When he's not minding the store at his own successful advertising agency, Robin helps steer the marketing efforts of this beast we call Half Moon Bay. Down here in the tropics, we like him so much we don't even hold that whole "Britannia Rules the Waves" thing against him. (I mean, what the heck was that all about?) And as a special favor to Robin, we're not going to mention the fact that (way back when) he helped work on the original Beatles' Yellow Submarine film. We know he's probably pretty sick of hearing about that one.
Thank sweet heaven we've got someone to keep these Half Moon Bay hoodlums in line. Were it not for the business acumen, financial wizardry and plain old common sense of Jeff Hite, who knows where we'd be today. And Jeff knows a thing or two about good eatin', too. A galloping gourmet with a titanic epicurian sensibility, Jeff's usually first in line when it comes to that all-important R&D phase at Half Moon Bay - taste testing.
Together with Tom and Robin, Jeff helped launch Half Moon Bay Trading Company after spotting the appeal and marketing potential in the crazy concoctions Nooge was cooking up every time he returned from a Costa Rican surfing safari. "If we could put that stuff in a bottle, we could sell it!" Jeff was heard to proclaim, between bites. And so they did.
All about HMBTC principal Tom Nuijens & Half Moon Bay Trading Co. in long run-on sentences! Current age 57... grew up in Ft. Lauderdale. 37 years in the Jacksonville Beaches. Moved to Jax. Beaches to attend UNF in 75 - class of ‘76. Spent 22 years in advertising and design in Miami and Jacksonville before “retiring” to direct the operations his new company Half Moon Bay Trading Company, in 1998 (company actually began sales in 1992 but was run day to day by our then Sales Manager and Warehouse Manager under Nuijens supervision). Career Highlites: Ass’t. Art Director for Sport Diver Magazine, Jax & Miami (a Ziff-Davis pub.) and Wm. Cook Advertising (largest independent agency in the south), AD for The Malone Group a graphic design & enviornmental design and for the last 15 years in the biz as AD and Creative Director, with The Robin Shepherd Group aka Robin Shepherd Studios “back in the day” (which had subsequently acquired Wm. Cook Adv. several years ago). Silent partners in HMBTC are in fact the local art & advertising hero Robin Shepherd, and our ad agency biz manager Jeff Hite, both Atlantic Beach residents and TRSG principals. Nuijens is a rabid water sports fanatic, has been waterskiing in Ft. Lauderdale since he was 6 and surfing since he was 14. Also enjoys traveling, wakeboarding, windsurfing, kayaking, fishing, camping and hanging out on his small farm in Costa Rica. First traveled to Costa Rica in ‘78, “it was the real deal back then – few tourists, fewer surfers, dirt cheap and unspoiled. We had the Lacsa Airlines and Costa Rica Tourism (ICT) accounts in mid to late seventies at Wm. Cook and that got me hooked up. Believe me it’s changed quite a bit but it still beats the traffic on I-95 for fun and adventure”. Has his own signature model of surfboard “The Nuggie Model” shaped by the famous local surfboard maker Dick Rosborough (only other surfer to acheive this besides Rozo’s brother Tom). World travels throughout the surfing meccas of Europe (France, Spain, Portugal & the UK), Indonesia, the Caribbean, South & Central America exposed him to many epicurean influences, especially those of the exotic hot & spicy ethnic genre which beyond 25 years ago had very limited presence in the US with the exception of our largest cities.
The pivital moment that started Nuijens' wheels turning towards the Half Moon Bay Trading Co. concept was in 1991 when consumer research the agency utilized for clients, revealed that salsa had surpassed ketchup as the #1 condiment in the US, indicating the impact of our changing demographic ethnicity. This event coincidentally launched the current hot & spicy food revolution, and the specialty hot pepper sauce boom began. Nuijens took an extended trip to Costa Rica spring 1992 to present the Half Moon Bay concept & his initial 3 product prototypes bottled & labeled, with old school presentation boards in hand, to the 4 major domestic condiment companies. Offering them the prospect of a US partner in exclusive specialty brands, and access to the N. American export market of 300 million+ and planned expansion to world markets, our current partner facility took the bait and the rest is history. HMB incorporated in July 1992, and their initial container of imported sauces arrived at the Port of Miami on Friday Aug. 21, 1992 to be cleared & dispatched by rail to Jacksonville on Monday Aug. 24, the fateful day that Hurricane Andrew devastated Miami. As news began to trickle out of Miami, it was found that the port had endured 12 feet of flooding from the storm surge, the roofs of most customs buildings and warehouses were blown away and the port and customs was closed until further notice. I would be 3 weeks before Nuijens heard the first news from customs that although many shipping containers were flooded or had rain intrusion and most ground laden cargo was damaged or destroyed, our container was in the middle of a container stack above flood level and beneath others, and was cleared to deliver... And so HMB's initial sales effort began in mid-October '92.
Nuijens loves cooking & entertaining friends specializing in “LatinAsian” foods (Indian,Thai, Spanish, Caribbean & tropical fusion). Created Half Moon Bay as a “special project challenge” while at TRSG, as he handled many package design projects for various clients over the years there, including nationally renowned natural foods distributor-Tree of Life. “If we couldn’t create exciting packaging and market it effectively, then who could?” Which was really a test to see if all that “smoke & mirrors, slight of hand, and fork of tongue” stuff that we do for clients really worked. Bingo... it seems to be working. The concept was to provide him (Nuijens) with an eventual out from the hectic creative industry and spend more time in Costa Rica surfing and fishing... errr, I mean growing "The Bay". After having our then sales manager run the company for the first 8 years (with Nuijens supervising the company’s operations from across the parking lot of the old Riverside Ave. Robin Shepherd Group loft digs) and not experiencing the growth we had projected, (even though the products and packaging have won numerous awards and are well known in gourmet and hot & spicy market circles) Robin and Tom realized that it was time for him to leave his agency duties and direct HMB full-time. I’m not worthy!!! - More Cow Bell"!!! Revenue almost doubled the first year on-board and seems to be continuing on a solid track 19 years later... The new office/warehouse facility in Atlantic Beach (built in 2000) has since changed his commuting routine drastically, 1.5 miles due north on A-1-A instead of 22 miles west via JTB & I-95 et al... meaning more time in the water (whopps... he means in the office) and fewer missed weekday swells. Nuijens personally creates every HMB product at home in the “Test Kitchen”, gaining feedback on a cadre of food professionals both in Florida and Costa Rica, plus unsuspecting friends - before taking them down to our partner factory in Costa Rica to extend the recipes out to commercial batch sizes and perfect the flavor profiles with the locally sourced tropical ingredients there. Currently HBM has 33 different specialty/gourmet condiments, pepper sauces, salsas, mixers & glaze toppings packed in various sizes for a total of 104 SKU’s and growing. HMBTC products are currently distributed in 50 states, Canada, Australia, Germany, the UK, and throughout the Caribbean and Central America. In addition, many HMB recipes are private labeled for national & regional restaurant chains, as well as offering co-packing services for a variety of unique pepper sauces and condiments for distributors in the US, Canada and Germany. Together with his life-partner, Peggy Cornelius, they’re both very active in the arts community in the Jacksonville, FL metro area, and split time together between their lovely home in Neptune Beach and home in Nosara, Costa Rica. Peggy, a contractor and residential designer has designed and built more than 250 custom (and award winning) homes at the beaches and in Costa Rica, including ours, and many restaurants in Atlanta GA as well. But gotta go... it's low tide & time for a “board” meeting!
Hasta la Pasta… Tom “the nooge” Nuijens
Ellen is responsible for taking our records keeping process from the 19th century into the future, replacing our office' abacus and ledger pads with real computers and some fancy program named Quickbooks. We've been beside ourselves... So now when you call to find out where to buy our all killer - no filler stuff, how much it costs (we could never figure out what to charge from day to day), and if we actually have any in stock, she can just press a dang button and shazam she's got your answer. It beats the heck out of having to run out to the warehouse and count bottles (most of the time).
Ellens' also your gal for where your sales commission check is (check's in the mail, right?) and how come shipping costs me more this order than my last order 3 years ago? "We'll Billy, remember when candy bars were a nickel and gas was 25¢ a gallon. Who knows where we'd be without her... probably sipping cold cervezas in Costa Rica and forgetting to check our email!