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North Bay Business Journal

Monday, June 10, 2013, 6:15 am

Commercial Real Estate: Coconut-based health foods maker shifts to Petaluma

Also: Brokers open Sperry franchise; Sausalito startup gets $14M

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    Jeff QuackenbushWith foods makers scrambling for lower-sugar sweetening alternatives and recent medical research reversing diatribes against palm oil, coconut and the benefits of balancing diets with certain fats, Leslie’s Organics, LLC (415-383-9800, coconutsecret.com) is readjusting logistics for its Coconut Secret line of consumer products as sales increase.

    The company leased 18,000-square-feet of warehouse space at 1297 Dynamic Way in Petaluma in late April and plans to be ready to receive products there in July, according to co-owner Leslie Caren. Sales are primarily to retail outlets through natural foods distributors, with some to online stores and foodservice providers.

    “It was an inevitable move in order to have our products ready on time,” she said. The company, still Mill Valley-based, previously had been using a third-party warehouser.

    Ms. Caren, a natural-foods industry marketing and advertising consultant for more than three decades, launched the venture in 2008 with her brother Randy Stoler after coming up with healthful low-glycemic-index snacks to help manage their parents’ diabetes.

    They worked with Mendocino Coast chef Dory Kwan to create snack bars and other products that use coconut syrup-like toddy, which they call “nectar,” evaporated at low temperatures from coconut tree blossom “sap.” The toddy can also be evaporated further to make sugar-like crystals.

    The low temperature for processing is designed to keep the enzymes alive and protect the nutritional content of 17 amino acids, minerals, vitamin C, broad-spectrum B vitamins and nearly neutral pH. Compared with the glycemic index of sugar at 65–100 and of honey at 55–83, the coconut nectar and sugar have an index of about 35.

    First to the market during the tough economic climate of late 2008 were canisters of coconut crystals and flour as well as bottles of nectar, sap-based vinegar and a savory sap-based liquid seasoning called “Coconut Aminos” to be used like soy sauce. Next came four types of coconut snack bars made with their own sweeteners. Also in the mix are ice desserts made from raw coconut cream.

    Whole Foods Market nationwide carries various of the 16 items now in the product line. Products range in retail price from $3.29 for snack bars to $9.59 for crystals.

    Haden Ongaro and Mark Carrington of Cornish & Carey Commercial Newmark Knight Frank brokered the Petaluma lease between Leslie’s Organics and building owner BBK Capital Investment.

    ***

    Irvine-based commercial real estate brokerage network Sperry Van Ness International Corp. added a 29th California office and a second one in the North Bay with newly established franchise Sperry Van Ness/MG Property Advisors, Inc. (415-516-1863, svn.com).

    Gary Gustafson is managing director, and 38-year Tiburon resident Martin Perlmutter is senior adviser. The new office, located in suite 200 of the 4040 Civic Center building in San Rafael, will focus on national net-leased-property sales as well as North Bay office and industrial sales.

    “For many years, I’ve admired the Sperry Van Ness philosophy that a transparent commercial real estate market is better for both brokers and clients,” Mr. Gustafson said in a statement. “That mission, combined with marketing tools that make the sales job more efficient and productive, made joining SVNIC the easiest and best choice.”

    Gary Gustafson

    Mr. Gustafson had been an agent with HL Commercial Real Estate of San Rafael for 13 years until November.

    Martin Perlmutter

    Mr. Perlmutter had been an agent for San Rafael-based Parkway Properties since leaving former Orion Partners with four other agents in early 2010.

    The network’s other North Bay brokerage is Novato-based Sperry Van Ness/Delta Realty Group, Inc. (415-897-4422). Managing Director John Williams started Delta Realty Group in 1981. The office has four other licensed agents.

    There had been a Sperry Van Ness franchise in Sausalito several years ago.

    ***

    Luxury goods consignment e-tailer The RealReal(therealreal.com), started by a Marin County resident and dot-com pioneer, outgrew its Sausalito attire and moved to San Francisco after receiving $14 million in Series B funding.

    Belvedere resident Julie Wainwright, chief executive of Reel.com and Pets.com in the e-commerce halcyon days of the late 1990s, started The RealReal in March 2011. The company expanded by 3,700 square feet of office space in Sausalito early this year as the San Francisco new headquarters was being readied, according to Cornish & Carey Commercial Newmark Knight Frank agent Meryl Sebestyen, who represented the company.

    The Hollywood Reporter in March called The RealReal “the hottest consignment website right now.” The concept: Consignors use the smartphone app or website to schedule a free pickup or arrange to ship the item to the company. A team of merchandisers and brand experts and gemologists check each item received for authenticity. For the 1.5 million monthly website visitors and 750,000 registered users, they may be able to get high-end brands for as little as 10 percent of the retail price. Sellers get up to 70 percent of the sale price.

    •••

    Send items for this column to jquackenbush@busjrnl.com or call 707-521-4256.

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