PIQUA — What started as a way to comfort her grandmother while she was sick has become a business venture for Irene Potter, of Piqua.
“When my grandma was starting to get sick, she wanted some jelly like her mom used to make, so I made her violet jelly and watermelon rind jelly, like from the Depression,” Potter said. “I kind of fell in love with the process and just kept going.”
Potter called on her small business background and the help of her family to launch Violet Valley. Two years later, Violet Valley is a regular at the downtown Lima farmers market with a variety of seasonal jams, jellies, marmalades and butters.
For those still wanting to get their hands on their favorite jam or jelly, they should act quickly. Potter makes a batch at the beginning of the season, and once they run out of a flavor, they are out until the next season comes around.
Their items range from traditional apple butter or cherry jelly to strawberry lemonade or pineapple flavored jams and spiced peach butter.
“By far, our best-selling flavor is black raspberry jam,” Potter said. “There’s just a lot of nostalgia, people remember picking black raspberries at Grandma’s house or Grandma making the jam. I would say strawberry rhubarb is probably our next biggest.”
Potter, who makes all the products herself, said the flavor choices are guided by whichever fruits are in season. What items she isn’t able to grow herself, she always tries to buy from local farmers.
To balance out the business during off seasons, Potter began making a variety of shelf-stable dry soup mixes. She has developed vegetable soup, lentil soup, barley vegetable stew, pasta fagioli and many more. All the buyer has to do is add water and throw the mix into a slow cooker.
Potter said the hardest part getting started was learning the Ohio cottage food laws, which mandate how items like baked goods, jams and jellies, candy and fruit butter can be made in a person’s home instead of a commercial kitchen. However, she didn’t let that stop her.
“I’ve actually gotten to be pretty good friends with the local health department director and that’s a big help for sure. Anytime I’m in doubt, I just send him an email and he gets me an answer,” she said. “Anybody that’s thinking about starting a business, check it out — don’t wait. There are resources out there to see what others have gone through and how they’ve done it. They can help you navigate it or know somebody that can.”
For Potter, the hassle is all worth it because of the bond Violet Valley formed within her family.
“I love it because I get to spend more time with my brother — and my sister-in-law enjoys it because she gets some alone time,” Potter giggled. “My daughter will help me with social media stuff and my son will help me out at the market sometimes, so we actually get to spend some family time together.”
Reach Tara Jones at 567-242-0511.