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Mango Mango preserves company expands in 2015 with new Hampton bistro, headquarters

In "Shark Tank: Episode 505," three event planners from Hampton, Va., ask the sharks to invest in their gourmet mango preserves business while singing their jingle, "spread it, mix it, shake it, stir it." NZINGA TEULE-HEKIMA, LAKESHA BROWN-RENFRO, TANECIA WILLIS of 'MANGO MANGO' MANGO... (Kelsey McNeal/ABC, ABC)

Like Jack's beanstalk, the mango preserves that Lakesha Brown Renfro and her partners first created have sprouted into a thriving business.

A year of brisk sales in 2014 for their Mango Mango preserves has paved the way for a new venture. In late spring, the three women will open up the Mango Mangeaux Cafe in the Phoebus section of Hampton.

Last year the three women pitched their preserves on ABC's "Shark Tank." While they didn't succeed in getting the panel of experts to pick up their product, sales at home went through the roof.

Dr. Nzinga Teule-Hekima, left, and Lakesha Brown-Renfro, partners in Mango Mango preserves . The company that has developed a line of fresh mango preserves that has many uses. (Adrin Snider, Daily Press)

In the fall, Renfro sold tens of thousands of jars during two visits to the QVC shopping channel. The new year looks promising as well, she said, with plans to renovate the Phoebus building into a cafe, company headquarters and production facility.

"We're so excited about the future," she says. "We feel we're bringing something fresh and new to the Peninsula."

The homegrown business started in 2007, when Renfro partnered with Nzinga Teule-Hekima and Tanecia Willis in a catering business called Simply Panache. They developed the mango preserves to use in their catering jobs, and the product line grew out of that.

They called them Mango Mango mango preserves and eventually sold them online at and in local stores.

Right before the trio appeared on the ABC show, Rob Merlino of the website predicted what could happen.

Artist's rendition of Mango Mango bistro and offices on Mellen Street in the Phoebus area of Hampton. Tentative opening is May 2015. (Courtesy of Mango Mango Preserves)

"They may not need the Sharks after appearing, though," Merlino wrote on the blog.

 "Time after time, particularly with food products, the mere exposure on 'Shark Tank' does several things: it creates immediate, national visibility, immediate demand, and it breaks down barriers to negotiations with food retailers. Food retailers are just as eager to jump on the Shark Tank effect, and they'll look at ratings and a business' web metrics following the show."

Things went viral this September when the women landed a spot on "Shark Tank," pitching their product with the motto, "Spread It! Mix It! Shake It! Stir It!" which adorns their Facebook page.

"We received 15,000 orders after the show initially aired, and that number soon doubled," Renfro recalls from that time.

 "We've been pushing out thousands and thousands of jars."

After their "Shark Tank" episode re-aired on Dec. 19, sales soared once more. Renfro said one to three orders were coming in every minute during that week.

The Web site Shark Tank Success praises the company: "Not only have they created a very successful event planning business 'Simply Panache', they took their #1 most requested food product and turned it into a full-fledged business that was good enough to make it on the #1 Business Reality Show in History."

Mango Mango mango preserves (Adrin Snider, Daily Press)

Strong sales have enabled them to realize the dream of consolidating all of their interests in a building in the first block of Mellen Street in Phoebus.

The first floor will house a bistro serving breakfast and lunch on weekdays and brunch on the weekends. Mango condiments will season a menu of quiches, souffles and other light fare.

In the rear of the restaurant will be the production facilities, while the second floor will have corporate offices. They'll also be a second-story space for corporate gatherings and rehearsal dinners.

Construction is expected to begin this month and the building should be open by May, she says.

Last year brought other honors for the partners as well. They were given the People's Choice award at the Specialty Food Show in New York, featured on the cover of Food Service Monthly and were highlighted in Gourmet News magazine.

In addition to the building, they plan to roll out new products in the coming year, including cookbook, mango cocktail sauce and mango vinaigrette.

"We really looking forward to making Hampton our home," says Renfro.

David Nicholson can be reached at 757-247-4794.Copyright © 2015, Daily Press

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