LONGVIEW — Employees at the Kelso Burgerville buzzed with excitement Monday afternoon when they learned Mike Seely was stopping by the store later that day.
Less than a week into a new, locally sourced shake menu that features one drink made with his Clatskanie, Ore., farm’s peppermint candies, Seely is a bit of celebrity at the Vancouver-based fast-food chain.
His family’s recipe for a peppermint patty milkshake is one he’s been trying to get on the market for years, he said. Burgerville’s campaign to “revamp” its shake menu to “go hyper local” with its ingredients provided the perfect opportunity to share the minty treat with a widespread audience.
“We work with over a dozen ice cream companies in the U.S. and Canada already, but nobody else has a peppermint patty milkshake,” Seely said. “I’ve tried to talk people into it, but I could never get anyone to do it.”
Peppermint patty milkshakes are a favorite of the Seelys, who have owned their Clatskanie-based mint farm and candy company for four generations. Before that, the family raised mint in the Fargher Lake area, according to seelymint.com
Seely’s daughter, Robyn, developed the recipe when she was a teenager, he said.
She used the Seely Mint candies the company is probably most famous for.
“It’s a really good product, and people are addicted to it,” Seely said of the mint patties, which are available at national grocery store chains, including Whole Foods and Fred Meyer.
The candies were particularly memorable for Jamie Powell, Burgerville’s senior vice president of menu design and development. She said she first learned about them about 10 years ago when she was working with New Seasons Market, and Seely Mint was contracting with the store to sell its candies.
When Powell decided to update Burgerville’s shake menu to feature locally sourced ingredients, Seely’s farm was the clear fit. Seely Mint is the last family mint farm on the Lower Columbia River — and it’s famous for its mint oils and candies.
“I hadn’t seen or talked to Mike for a few years after I left New Seasons, but when we were looking through the food profiles (for the new shakes), I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, we have to try their peppermint patty,’ ” Powell said.
Burgerville had been using some syrups to flavor its “core” shake flavors, such as strawberry and mint.
“For me, it was one of those things that was like, ‘We can do better than this.’ … Mint is a great flavor for a shake, just not with gross green syrup to flavor it,” Powell said.
The homemade peppermint patties replace the green syrup and Oreo cookie recipe Burgerville had used in its mint shakes. Seely Mint is one of seven local companies Burgerville is partnering with for its new shake menu. The change will keep about $400,000 in the regional food economy, Powell said.
Burgerville expects to purchase about 15,000 pounds of Seely’s peppermint patties, or about 950 candies, this year, Powell said.
That’s a relatively small order for Seely Mint, which provides some grocery stores with as many as 4,800 patties each week, Seely said.
Instead, the partnership is an opportunity for the family business to work with another company with similar values and grow its regional recognition.
“It gives us extra momentum, and people really start to gain notice when they see in all 41 Burgerville chains a Seely Mint poster. … Those are the kinds of things we are looking for. It’s good promotion for us,” Seely said.
When Seely dropped into the Kelso Burgerville on Monday, he handed out peppermint patties to employees and customers and talked up the shake.
It’s exactly the kind of local partnership Burgerville was looking for, Powell said.
“Nobody from our old shake menu ingredients was in our stores over the weekend buying shakes for guests,” Powell said. “It’s the local connection. They are excited to be at Burgerville, and we are excited to have them in Burgerville.”