Parkersburg woman happy to preserve tradition with jam business
PARKERSBURG — For two years, the woman behind In A Jam! has been helping people remember the simple pleasures of homemade jams and preserves.
The business has been operating for two years and continues to grow through the work and dedication of owner Andrea Duke of Parkersburg.
Throughout the year Duke makes 20-25 flavors of jams, producing 15,000 jars a year that are on sale throughout the state.
“It started as a hobby,” Duke said. “Making jams with my grandmothers when I was younger and having a love for the art of preservation is the foundation of ‘In A Jam!’
“For me, it was the perfect opportunity to do something I did as a kid with my grandmother so it had the appeal of preservation. I like older people and listening to them talk about how they used to preserve food when they were younger.”
Duke started at the local Farmers Market when it was still being held at Bicentennial Park near the Wood County Courthouse. When it moved over by Point Park, she took a break. However, she was contacted by the Bridgeport Farmers Market to sell there.
“They are one of the Top 50 in the country, rated by American Farmland Trust, and they are number one in the state,” Duke said. “I was able to expand the business by the people I met there, the organizers and the customers. It took off from there.”
Duke has worked to get certification with West Virginia University Better Control Process School as well as her certifications to get the “West Virginia Grown Local” label for her products.
“The fruits that I use are locally grown and harvested by my family/friends, myself and farmers in West Virginia and Ohio and then made into small batches of jams and jellies throughout the year,” Duke said.
She has been a vendor at Tamarack in Beckley, the Capitol Market in Charleston and has done a collaboration with JQ Dickinson Salt Works in Malden that has resulted in four products she produces that utilize their salt in them, including the Ramp Jelly.
One of her more popular products is the Pawpaw butter.
She started with Pawpaws she picked at Fort Boreman Hill. Now it is so popular, she has to use a larger supply from Integation Acres in Albany, Ohio.
The business is expanding to more than 40 shops and stores in West Virginia, Ohio and Virginia since 2016.
Her products are now shipped all over the state, including many state parks. They are available at Hawks Nest State Park in Ansted, Cass Scenic Railroad in Cass, Tygart Lake State Park in Grafton, Coopers Rock State Forest in Bruceton Mills and other venues throughout the state.
Locally, they are available at Crown Florals Gift Shop in Parkersburg, the Blennerhassett Hotel in Parkersburg, Blennerhassett Museum and Island in Parkersburg, Point Park Marketplace in Parkersburg and Mother Earth Foods in Parkersburg.
A full list of locations is available on its website at www.inajamwv.com.
“That is how much it has grown in two years,” Duke said.
As the business has grown, Duke is looking to the future.
Her grandmother, Clara Wilson, is still working to keep the fruit local, except with a couple of exceptions. She still helps pick fruit and the business uses fruit from about 20 farms in West Virginia and Ohio.
“All of the fruit is local, except the Mission Fig which is made with JQ Dickinson Salt from Malden and the Cranberry Jelly where those cranberries come from Sugar Hill Farm in Maine and are hand picked,” Duke said. “The fruits that I use are locally grown and harvested by my family/friends, myself and farmers in West Virginia and Ohio and then made into small batches of jams and jellies throughout the year.”
They are joining in on a crab apple orchard being planted at Henderson Hall, which should be producing fruit in the next few years.
“It will be special for us to be able to make a product showcasing something grown locally there,” Duke said.
She has looked at expanding, is considering hiring employees and is looking at getting a commercial kitchen setup, either in her house or partnering with an existing business that has one, possibly on Market Street.
The other appeal for her is being able to work with other small businesses and others around West Virginia who have the same interests as she does.
She joined the Chamber of Commerce of the Mid-Ohio Valley in November with a ribbon cutting ceremony held at Crown Floral.
“As a small business I am able to incorporate other businesses in the community into what we are doing,” Duke said. “It is something special being a part of other businesses and them being a part of mine.”
Blenko Glass Company has introduced Pawpaw as its new color for 2018 and Duke has been asked to collaborate with the Rondel Bowls the company produces. The purchase of certain bowls includes a jar of Duke’s Pawpaw Butter jam. The Blenko Glass Company has been a family owned and operated company since 1893 and is located in Milton.
Her best customers are older men who are reminded of jams their mothers and grandmothers used to make.
“I get a lot of stories of them not having the Elderberry jelly or them not being able to buy Strawberry Rhubarb since they were younger,” she said. “A lot of it is nostalgia or memories from their grandmothers and mothers.
“I have people in their 70s calling me or emailing me and telling me how it tastes just like the jams and jellies they used to make when they were younger. The pride in that is what keeps it interesting and fun. It makes me want to continue to do it.”