On a typical day, Stonewall Kitchen’s flagship store in York is filled with eager customers who purchase their signature jams, sauces and condiments.
Their store’s shelves are lined with all kinds of products that include specialty pancake, gingerbread cookie and waffle mixes, jams and jellies, condiments, sauces, drink mixes and more. In nearly every corner, Stonewall Kitchen’s signature Wild Maine Blueberry Jam takes center stage, which is fitting since this was the breakthrough product that would enable Jim Stott and Jonathan King to create their highly successful company.
“It’s inspired by my grandmother Pearl’s delicious blueberry pie,” says Jim. “I wanted to create the smell of her freshly baked pie filled with tasty, ripe blueberries. And we did just that. Every time I open our Wild Maine Blueberry Jam, I think of my grandmother.”
Since they first became partners in business and in life thirty years ago, Jon and Jim have tirelessly built up their company from a fledgling idea borne at a Portsmouth Seacoast Farmer’s Market to one of the leading specialty food companies in North America.
Right from the beginning, Jim and Jon spent endless hours cooking, hand-writing labels, shooting photos and selling their products out of Jim’s family summer cottage in York. Nephews and nieces filled jars one-by-one. Jim’s ninety-year-old grandmother, Pearl, helped glue burlap onto jar lids and Jonathan’s mother worked as a store clerk.
Stonewall Kitchen continues to add more specialty brands to grow its business. The company recently acquired Michel Design Works along with the Vermont Coffee Company and Urban Accents. Previously, they acquired cocktail accessory brand Tillen Farms, culinary oil and vinegar brand Napa Valley Naturals, and organic Italian pasta brand Montebello and Village Candle. Stonewall Kitchen has also partnered with Legal Seafoods to expand its distribution. They have also opened new company stores in Boston, Kittery and expanded their North Conway, N.H., location. Meanwhile, Stonewall Kitchen boasts a thriving digital business that ships products to customers worldwide. Stonewall Kitchen products are now sold in sixty countries. Their brand is displayed and sold just about anywhere specialty food products are offered.
The company also garnered two gold and one silver Sofi Awards from the Specialty Foods Association as well as one gold medal at the BIOL International Olive Oil Competition. These accolades reflect Jim and Jon’s shared drive to produce innovative, high-quality products.
Despite its growth, Stonewall Kitchen still honors its “family company” heritage, as the founder’s sister, Natalie King, is now the Chief Sales and Marketing Officer, being with the company for now for twenty-five years. “It truly has been an incredible journey! What started with my brother-in-law and co-founder, Jim Stott’s family pie recipe inspiring our Wild Maine Blueberry Jam has evolved into a full family of brands with hundreds of products, across dozens of categories,” said Natalie, “Our mission from the beginning was always to create the most delicious products we could, using only the finest ingredients. We have constantly strived to connect with our guests, through food and experiences. I’m proud to say that after thirty years, that mission has not changed.”
Jim and Jon are still very surprised by their success. “Jim and I are so thrilled and humbled to be celebrating the thirtieth anniversary,” said Jon. “We never imagined our weekend hobby of selling at local farmer’s markets would turn into one of the most successful and admired food brands in the nation. None of this would have ever been possible without the hundreds of dedicated and talented employees throughout the last three decades and the millions of loyal customers. One question we get often is ‘what is the secret to our success?’ The answer is quite simple…make a delicious, innovative, high-quality product at a fair price!”
In an interview with Passport Magazine, Jim explained that he and Jon have never strayed from their core values. “Does it taste good, does it bring a smile to their mouth when they have it on their toast?” Jim explained “We’re very passionate that way. It’s the one thing that’s held us together twenty-four hours a day, fifteen years doing this, and eighteen years being together, and we wouldn’t be if we weren’t totally on the same page and coming at it from yin and yang areas. Jonathan is driving the bus and he does a damn good job of it, but someone has to get out and fix it every now and then, and that’s me.”
Their relationship and business partnership began when they met through mutual friends at an open mic night at a Portsmouth coffee house. A year-long romance then ensued.
The odyssey of Stonewall Kitchen began when John brought some jams and vinegars he had made from his garden to the greenhouse where he was employed. One of his co-workers told him there was an opening at the Portsmouth Seacoast Growers Association Farmers Market. There were only fifteen vendors, and usually someone had to get sick or die to get a coveted space. They jumped on it and had ten minutes to come up with a name and fill out the forms.
Jim recalls that they were sitting at the kitchen table in their Cape Cod beach house. “We jotted down a list of everything we thought of. ‘Jim and Jon’s Jams and Jellies’ was one of the options. We would not be here if we went with that. It was March, and it was snowing, and there was a stone wall right outside the kitchen window. This old stone wall with a little spattering of snow—I thought it would make a great graphic.” They wrote it on the form and in 1991 Stonewall Kitchen was born.
Today Jon and Jim are not as involved with their company and are enjoying a semi-retired lifestyle which allows them to spend time with their three beloved golden retrievers. They also continue to develop property they purchased in Puerto Rico where they are building a home.
To learn more about Stonewall Kitchen, please visit stonewallkitchen.com.