Written by Marla Hardee Milling | Photos by Anthony Harden
For the past several years in our annual Sweet & Savory special, we’ve introduced you to entrepreneurs who are rolling up their sleeves to build, maintain, and expand their cottage industries. They know how to juggle busy lives and wear a wide variety of hats as they produce their products, sell at tailgate markets, work to get their product in retail stores, and handle the marketing, promotion, and everything else related to their business, including the dirty work. As Steve Modlin, owner of Old Mule BBQ Dipping Sauce, says: “That’s the world of small business—big plans and a mop bucket.”
(Editor’s Note: Vendors featured in this article were also selected by Capital at Play to represent us at the August 2017 Asheville Wine & Food Festival, for which we were a proud sponsor. Photos were taken by Anthony Harden at the Festival.)
BLUE RIDGE BRITTLE CO.
One of the things Tammy Ridenour, owner of Blue Ridge Brittle Co. in Brevard, loves most about her business is watching the reaction of people when they taste her treats at area farmer’s markets. “They’ll put it to their mouth and their face lights up,” she explains. “What a reward, after all the hard work, to see someone enjoy it so much. They’ll say, ‘My dad used to make it,’ or ‘My grandma used to make it.’ One customer sent me a picture of a jar his grandmother used to put peanut brittle in at Christmas, and now they put my peanut brittle in that jar.” (continued HERE)
After several years working as a chef, Mike Vitelli decided to follow a dream to do his own thing. That’s when Lake Lure-based Eat Pique was born. “As a chef, I love to play with unique flavor combinations and present them in ways that ‘pique’ one’s interest,” he says, while explaining his business name. “I wanted to create a fun company doing cool things and make eating exciting.” What he’s come up with may not be immediately understood by his customers, but he enjoys educating people about the versatility of his Honey Pickled Mustard Seeds. (continued HERE)
MRS. B’S HOMESTYLE EATERY
Nikki Wright says if she was living in a perfect world, she’d have her mom working beside her. But even though she’s creating a business in Canton while her mom still lives in the Greensboro area, she keeps her close to her heart while she mixes ingredients for her pies and other mouth-watering creations for Mrs. B’s Homestyle Eatery. “My business is named after my mom, Brenda,” she says. “She grew up on a farm with 15 brothers and sisters. I’ve always enjoyed cooking. She’s the person I got that from.” (continued HERE)
Life didn’t dump lemons on Jenna Kranz’s doorstep. Instead it was tahini—a whole bunch of it, so she made hummus.
“A neighbor, who was a food distributor, gave me the tahini,” recalls Jenna. “She said, ‘Can you figure out what to do with this?’” Friends told Jenna it was the best hummus they’d ever tasted, so she got the idea of selling it at the farmer’s market. That plan stalled because she was living in Florida at the time and regulations prohibited people from selling hummus made at home. She brainstormed some other ideas and found that granola was acceptable. “Truth be told, I’d never made granola,” she says. (continued HERE)
OLD MULE BBQ DIPPING SAUCE
When Steve Modlin was in college in the early ‘80s, he would spend time in the kitchen at his dorm making barbeque sauce and fudge during the holidays. “I would give that out as Christmas presents,” he says. “I couldn’t afford real presents.”
Like many other products created with loving intentions, Steve’s creations were a hit with family and friends who said, “You ought to sell that.” He toyed with the idea over the years and began making the sauce in larger quantities in the kitchen of a bakery owned by a neighbor. But he was limited, due to the demands of career, marriage, and raising three kids, on how much time he could devote. “It was a thing on the side and it started growing,” he says. “We became an official business about 1994 or ’95. (continued HERE)
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