A Longview couple turned their home garage into a commercial kitchen to freeze dry sweets for fun and meals for camping and survival enthusiasts.
Inside Danial and Meagan Levins’ roughly 800-square-foot kitchen are about four freeze dryers — machines that suck the water out of foods to give them longer shelf life, without cold storage.
People buy ready made meals — like chili or pasta and meatballs — for camping trips or to prepare for the next big disaster, Danial said.
Adding water back into the pouches returns the meals into their original form, Meagan added. People can heat meals over an outdoor fire with water, or with just water if conditions don’t allow heat.
Freeze drying food clears up space in the freezer, and is lighter than packing cans into backpacks or cabinets, she added.
The couple sells bags of freeze-dried mixed fruits like bananas, strawberries and grapes as a healthy snack. Their freeze-dried vegetables can be added when cooking soups and are rehydrated by the stock, she added. They focus on using locally grown produce.
“We’re trying to get food from the community to show what Longview has to offer,” Meagan said.
The business started around 2019, when Danial, who previously owned a barbecue business in California, said he saw freeze dryers’ potential in an online video. The couple started with what Meagan calls a novelty food — removing the water from candies and ice creams, to create unique, airy creations.
The process enlarges candies like Milk Duds and Starbursts, and makes ice cream sandwiches creamy and crunchy, like a cookie, Meagan said, and not like the chalky astronaut ice cream kids grab at museums.
“People like it, it’s cool, what can I say?” Meagan said.
Recently, the couple received a food processor license, upgrading from a cottage food license, and allowing them to ship more products. They sell items at the Cowlitz Community Farmers’ Market in Longview, and online at dstashfoods.com and Facebook. They also meet customers in person to deliver orders.
The couple married for 21 years said they looked at food trailers, but the roughly eight-month process to convert the garage into a kitchen was more economical. The initial investment was several thousands of dollars but Danial said “I had a good feeling about this.”
Other items they are interested in freeze drying go beyond everyday food. Meagan said they could freeze dry documents that have been damaged by water; they could freeze dry breast milk to increase its shelf life.
The couple has had their share of mistakes too. Candy with peanut butter doesn’t freeze. Items made with corn starch just explode, Danial said.
They plan to sell bite-sized, freeze-dried pumpkin pies this holiday season, and are looking forward to growing.
“Every day it feels like another door is opening,” Danial said.
Talking Business is a series featuring local new or expanded businesses and prints every Tuesday.
Contact Daily News City Editor Hayley Day at 360-577-2541 or firstname.lastname@example.org for possible inclusion in the series.