Mike McCoy stands with Ashlyn and Landon at a demonstration table at Sam's Club.
Mook’s the ‘Real Deal’
By Taylor Messick
Last Updated: October 12, 2017
Kechi man takes passion for salsa to another level
Mike and Jennifer McCoy have started an all-natural and home grown line of food products.
So far, the McCoys' biggest hit is their Mook's salsa.
The McCoys are former Bel Aire residents who recently moved to Kechi.
Mook's is made with real vegetables and spices and contains no preservatives. The salsa comes in three levels of spicy — mild, hot and inferno. The McCoys said their goal was to provide a product that is healthier and more delicious than anything else on the market.
However, insuring that level of quality is no easy task.
“We had a co-packer in Kansas City that used to make it for us for three or four years," said Mike. “But it never tasted right. When I would do demos in stores and people would compliment us, I always thought ‘yeah, but you should taste it when I make it.'"
The salsa (and brand) was called “Real Deal" back then. That name was taken from a restaurant and catering company Mike started in his hometown of El Dorado. Mike and Jennifer perfected their salsa recipe while running Real Deal Café, but they may have never developed the idea if it weren't for a tragic series of events. Mike's father helped him to get his business started — but was involved in a fatal car accident about a week later.
“That (restaurant) was the last thing he gave me," said Mike. “He ended up getting in a bad car wreck before it opened. He actually passed away a day after it opened. It happened right outside the café. I was inside setting up the restaurant when I heard the wreck and I ran outside. I was in a downward spiral after that. Jennifer and I almost went our separate ways until she found out she was pregnant about a month after my father passed away."
The two continued to run Real Deal Café and had their daughter, Ashlyn. The restaurant was successful and it helped them pay the bills, but the couple admits that after 40 years of combined restaurant experience they were getting burned out. Mike has always loved Mexican food and had already started experimenting with salsa recipes. He knew by the customer feedback at the restaurant that he had something special; but taking the next step in making that a full-time venture was a difficult decision.
“I think it was a trickle-down or domino effect that led us here," said Jennifer. “We didn't leave the restaurant with everything planned out so I think it gave him the kick in the pants he needed to get to work. His dad was attached to that restaurant with him and it was hard for him to close that chapter. Without all that happening, I honestly don't think the salsa would be where it is today."
The couple closed Real Deal Café on Oct. 1, 2016. Since then, they've dedicated a lot of resources to rebranding their product. They moved on from their original co-packer and found another who produces a quality product that is up to their standards. They had their web page redesigned. Mike tweaked the recipes a little bit and Jennifer developed a new name and logo. They changed the name from Real Deal to Mook's. Mook is the nickname Mike's family calls him; it came from his younger sister, Lauri, being unable to say Mike when she was little.
The feedback they have gotten from their new and improved product over the last year has been positive. Mike has been working constantly to get the word out about their product. Over the last month, he has been to Sam's Clubs across the country. He will soon be travelling to Bentonville, Ark., — the home of Wal Mart — to present the product. He has also recently gotten good feedback from a national distributor out of Omaha.
The future looks bright for the product but the present success is something the McCoys are proud of. Local support for the product has exploded. The McCoys said they could not be more thankful to their friends and neighbors in Bel Aire and Kechi for being so supportive and telling others about their product.
The product is currently sold at Leeker's in Valley Center and Park City, as well as Whole Foods. The McCoys also regularly demo their products at local Sam's Clubs, especially at the K-96 and Rock location. Hy-Vee in Kansas City sells the product in all of its stores and there are several locally owned stores across Kansas that carry Mook's. Wichita State University recently made Mook's its official salsa and now serves it in their cafeteria and sells it in their store. Products can also be purchased on Amazon or mooksfoods.com. They currently sell taco and meat seasonings that are all natural spices and contain no preservatives. They're also in the process of developing a fajita seasoning.
The McCoys said they would love for their products to be sold nationwide, but the most important thing to them in the short term is to keep Mook's a family business. They said they regularly get asked if they have tried to get on the television show, Shark Tank, but that's not the direction they want to go.
“We're doing it on our own," said Jennifer. “We want to keep our business and we want to have our story with it. We want to be able to control the quality of our product — but more than anything it's something we're leaving for our kids. At the end of the day, we're doing this for them. We wouldn't work this hard if it weren't for them. They get to see us working hard and they see that that's what it takes to succeed."