Bob & Lois Gamerman have pivoted their business, expanding during COVID. Photo courtesy Soft Stuff Distributors.

Cinnamon rolls, donuts, bread – the foodservice distribution company Soft Stuff Distributors is delivering comfort foods as part of a growing food portfolio to satisfy increased customer demand during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What’s the top-selling comfort food right now?

Cheesecake, said co-owner Lois Gamerman, who founded the company with her husband Bob 31 years ago. “That’s been a real seller in terms of desserts across the board during the pandemic.”

Bob said, “In these pandemic times, carryout restaurants want to distinguish themselves with an over-the-top great dessert. Donuts have been selling very well, too!”

Pre-COVID, the company, based out of a warehouse in Jessup, sold food to hotels and restaurants, not individual consumers.

Now, with the pandemic decimating their main sector of sales, they’ve shifted their consumer base to include individuals who order online.

New for the holidays, customers can now order the Gamerman’s own line of Smith Island cakes, the official dessert of Maryland that features nine layers of yellow cake with chocolate icing in between.

“We found that the local choices of Smith Island Cakes are expensive – in fact, unnecessarily so,” said Bob. “We decided to start manufacturing them ourselves.”

Soft Stuff will offer four flavors: traditional, red velvet, peanut butter, and cookies & cream.

As they continue to fulfill online orders, Soft Stuff Distributors expanded into the beverage industry.

“We have just solidified our contract with Oberweis Dairy to distribute their fantastic milk and dairy products to the Maryland, D.C. and Virginia marketplace. Oberweis has been providing the best-tasting, all natural, all-clean milk bottled in glass since 1915,” said Lois.

Operating for decades under the tagline “Delivering the Good Stuff,” Bob still believes Soft Stuff is still delivering deliciousness – just in a different way because of COVID-19.

Prior to COVID-19, Soft Stuff never sold directly to the public. Instead, it provided over 3,000 food products to restaurants, hotels and caterers throughout the mid-Atlantic.

That all but disappeared when the pandemic hit.

“We had to reinvent ourselves,” said Bob. “Our wholesale business has come back to just over 50 percent of the sales we were doing last year. But we’re a different wholesale company than we were prior to COVID.”

Soft Stuff considered an essential business was still in operation throughout the lockdown. But they had to eliminate 27 positions with the decrease in business.

The Gamermans sent “Boxes of Love” to those employees, and invited them to pick up food for their families.

The Gamermans also have delivered more than 140,000 meals and 147 tons of rescued produce to local communities.

“Soft Stuff also recently took over the regional distribution for Bakery De France, a Rockville-based Artisan bread manufacturer that provides bread to retailers and restaurants nationwide.

“With all of the new channels of business that Soft Stuff has opened up, if we extrapolate out the dollar value of these additional businesses, we will reach our original volume of sales from last year during the first quarter of next year,” said Bob.

By Susan Kim | Staff Writer | The Business Monthly | November 2020 Issue