Side streEATS is a monthly multimedia series by Long Beach Post staff that aims to highlight unique food businesses across the city. To contact us, email Visuals Editor Thomas R. Cordova at [email protected].
Dina Feldman’s charismatic and high-energy nature easily translates to her homemade, right-from-scratch salsas. Every bite brings a different taste. Based on the quality of her product, it would seem that Feldman has been in this salsa-making business for almost her whole life, but that’s not the case.
Since her college days in 1996, Feldman worked as a therapist for people struggling with disabilities. She honed her craft for roughly 20 years. Feldman was earning a livable wage while settling down at the top of her career. But there was a constant calling Feldman found impossible to ignore.
Hailing from Mexico, Feldman was often brought along by her parents who worked at restaurants in that country. The family immigrated to the United States in 1983, where Feldman’s parents found jobs once again working in restaurants. At a young age, being a restaurant owner seemed like a glamorous profession. She fell in love with the idea of owning an eatery of her own one day.
“I left my career, and started Feel Good Salsa, which is a brand of authentic salsas,” Feldman said. “I do have some other products that are a little different, but when I started it was authentic salsas.”
Feel Good Salsa offers a range of table-side treats such as a nectarine tomatillo citrus salsa and a roasted tomatillo salsa verde.
The idea behind her salsa brand was to recreate authentic homemade salsa that a Mexican mamá would prepare for her family. Though many restaurants strive for authentic cuisine, be it authentic Southern soul food or traditional Japanese meals, Feldman wanted to take her business a step further and implement strategies based on how they impacted the planet as much as the palate.
Choosing biodegradable straws and alternative packaging to traditional plastic became front and center for Feel Good Salsa.
“We focused heavily on the sustainability of the business. We tried to ensure that the food we bought didn’t travel too many miles, that the packages in which we deliver the salsas were made of ‘PLA’—a plastic not made with petroleum,” Feldman said. “There’s lots of things I take into account when I’m making decisions. The first thing is, ‘what impact will this have on the environment?’ Depending on that, I decide what course to take. Not just simply, ‘what is going to make me more money?’ because that wasn’t the purpose of the business.”
But Feel Good Salsa has a third core pillar that drives Feldman’s decision making process, and that is including the greater Long Beach community in her journey of sustainability and giving other entrepreneurs the know-how on starting a responsible business. This method of thinking gave way to Feel Good Salsa Kitchen—a shared kitchen space in Central Long Beach that Feldman rents to other aspiring cooks to use.
To incentivize her tenants to adopt sustainable practices into their business, she lowers the rent she charges them. This offsets the higher prices entrepreneurs often come across when wanting to buy Earth-friendly materials over styrofoam or plastic.
“The rent they pay depends on how many aspects of sustainability they adopt,” Feldman said. “The more they adopt, the less rent they pay.”
This approach has allowed Feldman to develop long-lasting partnerships with other like-minded cooks. Though 2020 was a rough year for many, Feldman is certain 2021 will bring a lot of growth to her cause. Her vision for Feel Good Salsa to revolve around sustainability, turned her gaze to urban farming as the basis for her upcoming nonprofit: Sowing Seeds of Change.
While still in its early stages, Feldman’s goal for her nonprofit is to marry the skills she learned as a therapist and her admiration for sustainable business methods. Sowing Seeds of Change will serve at risk youth coming out of foster care or people with disabilities to train them in agriculture and the food industry.
Eventually, Feldman hopes that Sowing Seeds of Change attendees will come away with tangible work skills either from the farm or by working in the shared kitchen space.
Just like her salsas, Feldman is mixing in different aspects of the Feel Good Salsa brand to create one simple flavor: community service.
“The fact that I can help other people be of service to other people with what I know, with the resources I have, that’s why I think I’m here,” Feldman said. “That’s why I exist, and that’s why Feel Good Salsa, Feel Good Salsa Kitchen and Sowing Seeds of Change exists.”