As professionals in the hospitality industry, caring for others is important to longtime friends Stephen Pressman and Heather Gettis. When the pandemic hit and both were laid off from their jobs, restaurant worker Pressman and event manager Gettis found themselves with an abundance of time and a lack of opportunity to do things for others.
Gettis decided to transition to a vegan diet during this time. In the early stages of experimenting with new, plant-based foods, she modified her Polish family’s traditional pierogi recipe and shared the dish with Pressman.
The pierogies were a hit, and friends encouraged Gettis to sell them to make money and fulfill her need to care for others.
“I was missing that hospitality factor,” says Gettis. “I wanted to make people happy in a time in which things are uncertain.”
Gettis and Pressman decided to use the skills they had gained in their previous jobs to start their own pierogi business, Rogue Rogies.
“It is really important to have representation in the food industry. It makes up such a large section of the workforce, but a lot of queer people are relegated to the back.”
— Stephen Pressman, Rogue Rogies co-owner
At the moment, the business model is entirely based on selling through Instagram. The menu for the month and pickup dates can be viewed on the handle @roguerogies. Buyers order via direct message.
Sold frozen in half-dozens, the pierogies are the right size for a family-style side dish. Customers say they are easy to cook, and the company uses eco-friendly packaging and fresh ingredients.
Some of the herbs and vegetables used are grown in a back-porch garden by Gettis, who also has a background in horticulture. Other ingredients are sourced through grocery boxes from Green Meadow Farm in Gap, Pennsylvania.
The pair is committed to using these fresh ingredients to create recipes that are accessible to individuals of all diets. They don’t use peanuts or soy-based products, they post all other allergens on the Instagram menu and they are currently developing gluten-free dough.
Accessibility is an important part of Rogue Rogie’s business platform. Both owners identify as bisexual. As an out-and-proud queer-owned business, Rogue Rogies strives to create a welcoming space for people of all gender and sexual identities.
“I want people to feel safe and comfortable with us. And I want to deter anyone who may not treat us fairly,” says Gettis.
Pressman agrees, adding, “It’s really important to have that representation in the food industry. It makes up such a large section of the entire workforce, but a lot of queer people are relegated to the back.”
Rogue Rogie’s branding as a queer-owned business has also helped to attract customers like Victoria Neifert, who says supporting small, queer-owned businesses is important to her.
“And full disclosure,” Victoria adds, “I’m not even vegan.”
The beauty of Rogue Rogies is that vegans and non-vegans, queer and straight individuals alike are invited to try a delicious plant-based dish. As customer Elaine Panuccio says, “Food does have the tendency to bring people together.”
Selling on Instagram is just the first step for Gettis and Pressman, who have discussed pop-up and direct-carry options with local stores. They also hope to fulfill other dreams, such as moving to a commercial kitchen, opening their own restaurant and collaborating with other small businesses.
“The goal is just to get them into as many mouths as possible,” says Pressman. “We want to continue that … hospitality, making something with our hands and seeing the joy it brings people.”
To learn more or order vegan pierogies, direct message @roguerogies on Instagram.