Jim Stott and Jonathan King, the team behind Stonewall Kitchen, in York, Maine, never stop changing their list of superb condiments: "We get bored making the same things over and over," Stott explains. To keep the quality from slipping, each time they add a new item, they drop an existing one. What they almost never replace are the breakfast items--and, not coincidentally, breakfast is their favorite meal.
The company, which netted $10 million in 1998, has a growth record that any Silicon Valley CFO would envy: the partners started out a mere eight years ago selling a handful of jams, mustards and vinegars from a card table at the Portsmouth, New Hampshire, farmers' market. They left the market that first day feeling ebullient. "We high-fived all the way home because we had made about $250," King remembers. "I said, 'I'm quitting my waitering job. I'm rich!' Then I learned about the cost of ingredients."
To economize, the two bartered cases of jam for fruits and vegetables--what they got determined what they'd make for the next week--and found other ways to save. "All the stands had fancy tents, which we couldn't afford," King says. "So I held a golf umbrella over the customers' heads. I'd follow them around the table. But it was hard to make change."
They sold their vinegars in old Saratoga water bottles; each one had a big S on it, which they pretended stood for Stonewall. And nothing got thrown out. According to Stott, "A batch of cranberry-orange marmalade burned, so we sold it as smoky-orange barbecue sauce." "We handwrote our labels," King adds. "One time we had a big order for Grand Marnier marmalade, and I wrote mamalade--I'm a terrible speller. I covered by saying, 'That's how we pronounce it in Maine.'"
They landed their first serious account in 1994 with an order for 20,000 jars of mustards and jams. As King remembers it, "Someone said Crate & Barrel was on the phone, and I said, 'Put them on hold so it seems like we're busy.'" Suddenly, they really were busy: it took them weeks to fill the order. They were working out of their 20-by-25-foot house, and they had to move crates of jars to watch TV. Now they're building a 45,000-square-foot factory, but they haven't forgotten their beginnings. They're especially excited about an autographed book and a note they recently received from one of their childhood heroes, Fred Rogers, of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. "He said that we're great neighbors," King reports.
Here the partners share some of their favorite dishes, including King's much-loved home fries and phenomenal Lobster Eggs Benedict. There's also a recipe for high-rising biscuits to go with Stone-wall's great jams, jellies and curds.
Stonewall Kitchen sells a number of the ingredients called for in these recipes, including orange-cranberry marmalade for the scones and wild Maine blueberry jam for the coffee cake. They also offer a kit with all the ingredients for the coffee cake. To order, call 800-207-5267.