Stocking Sauce

Once in motion, we spent every spare moment immersed. I’d come home from work and ask Jeff what he’d accomplished during the day and what we were going to work that night.

One evening he replied that he’d spent the day ‘getting sauced.’ The next day he’d said, “I got more sauced!” Each time a creative answer followed. “I’m having a saucy day!” “I got saucified!” “Saucing!” 

We spent three weekends preparing, in grocery stores, on the web, on Food Network, and on the phone locating our opening stock.

In stores, because we didn’t want to duplicate easily found sauces, and it was likely we wouldn’t be able to match the big store low price.

On the web, looking for other hot sauce ventures: makers, sellers, stores, web sites. Yes, it’s true. We culled the names of the more popular brands and small start-ups.

On Food Network because BBQ challenges, and the many city specific food discovery shows featuring small business owners and local specialties.

There were a ton of tiny outfits. We learned that even if a popular brand was already stocked in mainstream or gourmet specialty stores, often the hotter-hottest of the line was not.

Jeff made friends. And, I’m talking more than acquaintances. Even over the phone, he had the gift of friendliness.

Within a few days free samples began rolling in. Some came from new makers/suppliers Jeff discovered. Two of the larger branded names couldn’t accommodate our small 2-4 or at most 6 bottle orders, but they were willing to provide the name of businesses who would.

Jeff spoke to both sources and within a day, after Jeff and I had agreed and disagreed on some items, our first order was placed.

The disagreement was about anything with the name or word ‘fart’ or ‘ass’ included. I know it’s more of a man thing than a Jeff thing, but no matter what, I just didn’t find it funny. I never understood the guffawing over the fart scene in Blazing Saddles, either. Especially after seeing it for the umpteenth time. I will admit the only time I’ve ever found a fart funny was when Peter Sellers was involved.

My vision was more gourmet, experimental, unique. Jeff didn’t think anyone would ever be interested in olive salsa or crab salsa, but his approach was, “Why not? Let’s see what happens.” 

On a Wednesday, two big boxes of serious shipment had arrived.  I only remember it was a Wednesday because we were debating the merits of waiting until we could get the shipments to the store or opening them now and just being excited.

 With enthusiasm we tore open the loot. The first thing Jeff pulled out delighted him and annoyed me…

Quotes (from friends and I) for the Week:

2017 10 30 The Tecumseh Herald Oct 2004 opening jakorte

Enjoy This Week’s Discovery Links:

 

 Funny?: flatulence

What?: popcorn farts

How?: like this

Photo Essay Interlude …

Because old printed pictures tell a good story ….

First, the entire 8 foot by 8 foot Michigan Hot Sauce Club store! (See “Club?” blog)

Hand stamped spirals, hot pepper curtain, plastic shelves, and register counter.

2017 10 24 MHSC Store Layout jakorte

Next, the continuation of the driveway corn experience! (See “Canned” blog.)

We cooked 3 – yes 3 – pots of corn. Canned some plain, some with green peppers, chili peppers, onions and celery.

2017 10 24 Canned corning jakorte 10 24 2017

 

Plus, Jeff’s sense of humor and creativity – cabbage and cookies!

2017 10 24 Jeff took this picture cabbage

Stay tuned for next week’s blog: Stockings

 

 

 

 

 

Club?

(First, an embarrassing tidbit. So, I’ve mistakenly miss-remembered a crucial detail about our store. It was not 10 x 10. All of the newspaper article clippings I’ve saved clearly say that the space was even ridiculously smaller at only 8 x 8.  This makes me laugh. As do the many news articles, which I’ll share coming up.)

Jeff got to thinking… maybe having ‘Tecumseh’ in our name was too specific, too limiting. “Maybe we’ll want to open another store, someday, in another town.” he adorably, optimistically supposed.

I told him I liked the way he was thinking, and got to thinking, myself, too. I threw out, “Michigan Hot Sauce Company,” but that still seemed plain. And, then, from nowhere, I surprised myself and Jeff, too, by stating, “Michigan. Hot Sauce. Club.”

“Club?” Jeff wondered aloud in my direction, “but, we can’t call it a club if we’re not a club…”

“Well,” I started, “technically… we could be.” Looking at our dream blueprint, I pointed out that we were halfway there. We were already planning a monthly newsletter mailing; we already were planning on a ‘club’ type frequent buyer card.

All that was missing was meetings.

“We’re gonna having meetings? About what?” Jeff wanted to know.

“Well, maybe not ‘meetings’ exactly.” I explained. “I’m thinking special club member invitation only taste tests. Cooking demos. You love hot sauce and know so much about it. Do you think we could ask our members share recipes and make a cookbook out of that?”

Jeff’s big grin split and lit up his face. “You’re a genius,” he said. “I love the way you think!”

With a wonderful name on our lips, a license number to provide, we went into fast action. By this time, we only had two and a half weeks left in our promise to be open in three weeks. Timing was important because we wanted to be ready by the big ‘Grand Opening’ announcing the newest stores in the mall on September 23rd, 2004, and to be sure we still enough time to get our name out there before the Christmas and gift giving season.

We split up to divide and conquer and briefed each other throughout the day and every evening on our progress.

I had: décor, licensing, marketing, banking, budgeting.

Jeff had: fixtures, locating a manufacturer for our salsa (because we didn’t have and couldn’t afford a commercial kitchen), and the important cornerstone of hot sauce.

Quote for the Week:

2017 10 17 its embarrassing to have to fact check your own life jakorte 10 17 2017

Enjoy This Week’s Discovery Links:

About That: Memory

Fact Checking: Memories

Broadway Cat and: Memories

 

10 x 10 Gamble

With SMC in our heads and the possibility of a part time store with a bridal theme, we just went ‘to look’ at the open space at Selders’ Mall.

We were excited on the way over, set with our plan and pitch. One area of concern was required non-competition with the other stores. A bridal dress salon, a masseuse, a hair salon, a tax man, tuxedos, a seamstress and rental décor already occupied the mall. Jeff and I had poured through every page of products and were thinking wedding décor, wedding party gifts, table favors would fit in nicely.

We’d been told the space was small, but seeing it in person was a bit surprising. I skeptically surveyed the situation. What it really was, was a 10-foot by 10-foot alcove previously used as bridal gown dressing room, if that helps you imagine it any. There wasn’t a dedicated door, just a rod where a curtain had previously hung, and to be honest it was a bit dingy and very poorly lit.

I swiftly conjured up a list of things we’d need to change. Jeff declared it was a perfect size.

I saw the need for paint, carpet cleaning and a way to cover the one narrow door-side sized window without obliterating all of the small amount of natural light.

Jeff envisioned lining the walls with shelves, moving in a small desk and chair and setting up the cash register and credit card machines SMC had helped us obtain. Brides, mothers of brides, wedding planners are not solo shoppers. I worried that trying to get more than two people besides Jeff or I into the store would make it seem uninvitingly small.

In addition, we’d have to be ultra selective with our merchandise. To me, that made the tiny spot a big gamble. Reduced variety can only attract a reduced audience, and we hadn’t even established exactly who we thought our narrow-niche customers might be, yet.

I was impressed with the balloon and rental decor business our enthusiastic friends had set up. The other business owners/space renters seemed nice. Price wise, it fit our budget. The location was pretty good and would give our store-to-be a Tecumseh address. We spent a good amount of time speaking with the owner, asking if we could perhaps incorporate the entrance hallway into the room as part of the shop.

She was agreeable to that, but did not want us to use a side entrance to the building as our main in. I thought that was reasonable and a good business decision. It would give anyone looking for us an idea of what else was there, and us a chance to catch the attention of customers who didn’t arrive already planning to visit our gift shop.

While Jeff and the others were still talking, I slipped back to re-evaluate the room. Something about it reminded me of something I’d seen before. Another business in a microscopic space that managed to be jam-packed full of specifically themed merchandise.

I was still contemplating that as Jeff and I, our friends and the owner made our way into the parking lot.

What happened next was what Jeff would later refer to as a “menu moment.”

Quote for the Week:

2017 09 26 creativity is ability to change jakorte

Enjoy This Week’s Discovery Links: 

Small Shops: Design Ideas

Small Business: Weird Ideas

Inventory: Big Ideas

 

 

In Decision

The medications weren’t really helping, so his doctors decided to try alternative measures. TENS units, TED hose and PT were added to Jeff’s mix. None were working as well as hoped. When a sleep study proved he had alarming apnea, an oxygen concentrator and a PAP machine arrived in our home.

After our dog excursion, Jeff mentioned the puppies a few times. I shook my head each time. I thought we had enough troubles.

More than two weeks had passed and I couldn’t get the pups off my mind. Jeff was bored and lonely and, according to his doctors, beginning to show signs of depression.

As far as I could tell, Jeff was still Jeff. Still, I began thinking maybe a dog wasn’t such a bad idea. It’d keep him busy, provide companionship.  I was a little worried about what a puppy would put Miss Fred through, but then again, it was a big house. Freddie wasn’t fazed by much. She wasn’t a constant attention grabber or a snuggler. With the exception of drive-by leg-bumping, she wouldn’t get that close. She’d sit near you – maybe close enough for a pet, maybe not, and definitely not often. 

On my way out the door to work each morning, I left Jeff his daily list of to-do tasks jointly devised as a way to keep him occupied and helpful. We’d talk about it the night before and hand note what was needed on a pre-printed form I created. On Thursday night we wrote: make a grocery list, make dinner, wash bedding. Friday morning, finally in decision mode, I added an extra line item: call to see if any puppies are left. 

Within hours, he found out there were only two puppies left. On our weekend way back to the farm, Jeff of the Big Heart said, “You know… I’ve been thinking… maybe we should take them both, because they’re the last ones, and then one wouldn’t have to be lonely.”

I said, “I’m not even sure about one. I don’t think two is a good idea.”

“Well, how will I decide?” he asked. “You’ll just have to,” was my answer.

There was no commotion in the kennel, this time. Inside the barn, two babies slept peacefully in a hay-lined, low-sided wooden crib. Jeff lifted one in each hand, and set them both down both in the morning sun. While their tiny eyes adjusted into squints, I decided I’d try the ‘Kelsey’ test and plopped myself down on the ground to see what would happen. The next thing I know, I was playfully attacked by a little black and white streak. He ran around me in circles, jumping in and out of my lap and zealously yapping. Continually, and quite normal for a Jack.

The other simply one laid down near Jeff’s feet. The yapper bumped into her a few times, so Jeff picked her up to get her out of the way.

“Is she sick? Could she be contagious?” I asked, comparing her docile demeanor to her energetic brother. “I don’t think so,” Jeff answered. Because I was me, I adamantly encouraged him to ask. Because he was Jeff, he handed her off to me and set out for the house.

Quote for the Week:

2017 08 01 Comparing apples to apples isn_t always fair judgement jakorte 07 31 2017

Enjoy this Week’s Discovery Links:

Apple: Facts

Apples: Applause

Puppy Diseases: To Watch For

 

 

 

Once a Week

As near as I can tell, I began my first on-line blog in February 2008. The only semi-proofs I have are a binder-clipped, wrinkled paper table of contents printed on December 27, 2013, and an entry dated November 10, 2009 that indicates I’d been at it for 89 weeks.

The announcement that the University of Michigan library would be offering a free movable type publishing platform arrived in a daily news email. Known as ‘mblog’ the site hosted my weekly entries until December 2013.

I eased into blogging by rolling away from a previous weekly publishing. What started as a weekly email to 37 people turned into a way to update family, friends and coworkers on a 2007 mission trip.  I called the original email newsletter, “Midweek Encouragement” and it offered just that. The standard header on each weekly Word document read, “One Page, Once A Week for the Promotion of Learning and Love.”

When mblog ended, I had to find a new way to keep sharing. I researched a bit and ended up on WordPress. The reviews indicated it was an easy-to-use site, the yearly fee was reasonable and instead of having to email a link directly to my readers, the link could be auto-sent to any subscriber.

The subscriber thing didn’t exactly take. The direct email list is now 64 participants, and the WordPress subscriber list has stalled at 58. Exposure on Facebook and Twitter is auto-linked and between the two, there are at least 250 potential exposures.

February must be an historically slow month for me because that’s the month I chose to enter the Instagram world in 2016. I’m hovering around 175 followers there.  To be honest my average weekly WP stats show about 25 average views per week.

The most read week I ever had was October 4, 2016 with 131 views, not so coincidentally the near 10th year anniversary of my husband Jeff’s  passing. This isn’t a pity party. It’s just me contemplating my strange dedication to maybe being heard, at least once a week.

Here’s what I do know, though. 484 weeks in, the answer to the hard and frequent question addressed in that November 2009 passage hasn’t changed much.

Quote for the Week:

2017 06 06 Its been said to take a minimum of 3 weeks jakorte

 

 

The Cornbread Lesson

There’s an obvious family trait passed down from Nannee to Sally and then to Jeff, and Eric and Nicole – having a purpose was and is important to each of them. I don’t know that it’s ever been acknowledged, but the way I’ve seen it, that purpose was always to be sure everyone was treated as if they were the most important person in the world, and to do everything in their power not to be a burden to anyone else.

Jeff and I talked it over and knew Nannee was independent enough, and that she’d be stubborn enough, to not accept our permanent hospitality. We didn’t kidnap her, we just kindly informed her she would be coming to stay with us for a weekend… or so.

The first time Nannee stayed with us was only for a day or so. She insisted that she enjoyed the visit but had to get home to attend to her laundry.

The next time was 2 full days and we brought her laundry with her. She insisted that she enjoyed the visit, but had to get home for her mail.

The third time, Nannee said she had the flu, and welcomed a little more extended stay. She lasted an entire week, and by the end of her visit, she was up and about, doing our laundry and helping cook dinner.

I arrived home about an hour later than normal one Friday night after another long week of 9 ½ hour days and 2 ½ hour vanpool commuter roundtrips to find that they hadn’t waited for me for supper. I was overly tired, unreasonably disappointed and very hungry. There’s a common name for that now: hangry.

They were watching TV, Nannee on the couch and Jeff in his chair, when he called out to me from the den, “There’s chili on the stove and corn muffins on the counter!”

I walked into the kitchen, took a look at the counter and yelled, “What the hell, Jeff?!?!”

“What?” he asked in that hurt and hesitant voice I wish I hadn’t induced many times and wish I could forget now, as well.  “What the hell did you do this muffin pan?” I raged.  “There’re gouge marks in every cup!”

When I peered through the pass-thru, Nannee was looking concerned. Jeff’s eyes were huge. He was shortly shaking his head and doing an abbreviated version of the hand-jive, which dramatically finished with the universal finger across the neck sign for “Stop!” I immediately assimilated what that meant, burst into tears and ran into our bedroom.

When I didn’t come back out, Jeff came in after me. “She was just trying to help out,” he said. “She really wanted to do something nice for us.” When I just kept crying, Jeff continued, “She’s feeling pretty good. We had a fun time cooking together.” I felt like a heel and told him so. “It’s alright,” he said. “It’s not!” I wailed. “Give me a minute and I will come apologize.”

By the time I got myself together and changed my clothes, Nannee had decided to go to bed. I felt even worse about that. “It’s ok,” Jeff said. “She understands. I told her you were sorry and she said that she’s glad you feel like you’re able to be yourself around her.”

Saturday morning, Nannee decided it was time to go home, again. “It’s the weekend,” she reasoned. “You should be able to relax and spend some time together without me here.”

I apologized profusely. If I had known she’d been the one to ruin the pan or even if Jeff had been responsible, I had no right speaking to either of them that way. They’d made me dinner and I behaved poorly.

Nannee just pshaw’d me. “Life has bumps,” she said. “.. ‘t doesn’t make the love any less.”

In this case, it made the love even more.

Quote for the Week:

2017 05 23 life has bumps jakorte

Enjoy This Week’s Discovery Links:

Why We Say It: Hangriness

Don’t Say It: Biblically Speaking

Eat This: Cornbread