A Brittle Game Plan

For just over a decade Mike Lodish stirred up success on the football field, playing in Super Bowls and fending off challengers as a defender for the Denver Broncos and Buffalo Bills.
With his NFL career behind him (since 2000) and having done the rounds as a Fox Sports color commentator and an NFL agent, Lodish, a Birmingham native, is now more into mixing bowls than Super Bowls. His latest venture is selling peanut brittle from a family recipe he and his sisters started munching on from the time they had teeth.
It was in their mom's honor that Lodish, now 45, named his company, Pats Gourmet LLC, after his mother, Pat Lodish.  The company was established in September 2011 and is the parent company of Lodish's Champion Brittle, just one of many brands Lodish hopes to bring to market.
Lodish's peanut crunch is sold in 30 stores from Detroit to Port Huron, and Lodish says expansion plans include selling outside Michigan and maybe even working a deal with the NFL or NFL stadiums.
"We will explore all opportunities," says Lodish, a graduate of Brother Rice High School in Bloomfield Hills and UCLA, where he played football with a team that won the Rose Bowl. Lodish's football career is distinguished by the fact that he was the very first NFL player to play in six Super Bowls.
Lodish's brittle business puts a tough, straight-talking, some might say intimidating guy in the position of selling a sweet treat and exposing a soft spot for who else but his mom - and his family - whom he thanks for guiding him into the tasty endeavor.
"You'll notice I put my own name on my brand, Lodish's Champion Brittle, because I remember how much it meant for me to have my name on the back of my jerseys when I played football from high school up to the toughest league of them all - the NFL," Lodish proclaims in an introduction of himself on his website.
In person he says football, probably more than his history degree from UCLA with a business administration minor, prepared him for the new business.
"I think the direct correlation is nothing gets done without hard work," he says.
That work involves leading product demonstrations at stores such as Holiday Market in Rochester, where Lodish recently demo'd his brittle. 
The candy and snack business is also about working the phones and your connections, including friends who know the food business landscape. Several of them have become mentors and teachers, guiding Lodish onto a field that operates from a whole new playbook. The approach seems to be working, in just over a year Lodish's Champion Brittle orders have gone from individual boxes to whole pallets. 
Earlier this week Lodish was in research and development, experimenting with a chocolate drizzled version of his brittle, something he describes as "dangerously delicious."
"We didn't know anything about this," except that his mom's brittle needed introducing to the masses. he says. "We're excited… And we know you have to work hard at everything you do to be successful."

Kim North Shine is Metromode's Development News editor and a Grosse Pointe-based freelance writer.

All photos by David Lewinski Photography