When Abby Freethy was pregnant with her son, she could only stomach french fries and ketchup. A trained chef, Freethy decided to make her own ketchup, and from there the inspiration for Northwoods Gourmet Girl was born.
Freethy calls herself an “accidental entrepreneur.” She’s a Culinary Institute of America-trained chef who worked for years in New York City and around the world. When she moved to Maine, to Greenville, she wanted to use her culinary skills to make money.
She set out to learn the rules about commercial canning and gave birth to her business—and her son—in 2005. She started out renting a commercial space in Greenville where she opened a cafe and built a menu around her products. Her meatloaf included her homemade ketchup recipes and salads were drizzled with her dressings. When guests would finish dining, they could purchase their favorite condiments to take home with them.
“I always had the understanding that we wanted to be a brand,” she says. “And we’re still striving for that.”
Freethy’s biggest challenge hasn’t been trying to get her product into stores or building her own commercial space, which she did five years ago. This past winter, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She underwent surgery, along with bouts of both radiation and chemotherapy, and she stepped away from the business to focus on her health.
“We kept it floating because I have great employees and a supportive community in Greenville,” she says.
Looking back on the past 10 years of Northwoods Gourmet Girl, Freethy doesn’t think it was a brilliant business model that got her where she is, but sheer will.
“We have been at the forefront of the movement of food in Maine,” says Freethy . “To be a woman-owned business is a big accomplishment. To be able to employ people and make their lives better in Greenville is paramount to me.”
You can buy Abby’s products at north-woodsgourmetgirl.com.
Laura Serino has been writing for national and regional magazines for the past 10 years and is the co-author of “Twenty- something Girl.” She lives on North Haven island with her husband, dog and two cats.