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Jonathan King - It all started with a jar of jam back in 1991, or so this story goes. Well, almost. I have a strong interest in horticulture and cooking. A friend suggested I sell my goods at the local farmers' market. Being of entrepreneurial spirit I decided to try it out. My partner Jim who was an avid cook, and also worked in a restaurant, like me, joined in. So we acquired a small folding table, a market umbrella and called ourselves Stonewall Kitchen, after Jim's suggestion inspired by the historic New England stone walls outside our kitchen window.
There we were the night before market day — 3:00 am in a small kitchen hand-labeling and filling jars with jam we had just cooked up on our small, four burner stove. After a first day sell-out, we figured we might be onto something and continued to "head to market" every Saturday at the crack of dawn for the next five years. Whatever local produce was fresh and in abundance was crafted into our product line: vinegars, oils, pesto, jams, and baked goods. Our eclectic mix sold out at almost every farmers' market, and later, at the country fairs and festivals we attended. People liked our product but they also liked our presentation and displays, products piled high in antique apple baskets and crates; so much so, that the local farmers at the market decided they better add a little something to their displays and soon market umbrellas decorated the entire lot!
Jim Stott - I was always coming up with something to sell. For a few summers I was printing and selling t-shirts and kites at my kite shop in Hampton Beach. I had the most profitable newspaper business as a young kid and later had my own residential construction company. I was waiting tables on the side to make some extra cash and met Jonathan. He too was entrepreneurial; he sold anything from popcorn to repackaged seeds. I guess we both had an eye for business and a definite passion for cooking and gardening. When those forces came together, embellished with an artistic, creative angle, our product was born and our brand emerged. No plan, we just focused on offering the highest quality tasting and best looking products possible, and customers kept coming.
One early morning, Lucy Tuttle, from Tuttle's Farm, came by our stand. She asked if we sold wholesale. Not knowing exactly what she meant, she bought every last jar we had before the market even opened. We figured we were in the wholesale business now. And that is really how it happened and expanded.
The extraordinary journey of two friends, Jim Stott and Jonathan King, who were waiters, cooks and avid gardeners, has captured the interest of many and the loyalty of every employee. From the beginning, the company was based on ideals born out of Maine: unspoiled beauty, wholesomeness, a sense of community. It is a testament to the art of preserve making and the growing public interest in wholesome, quality and tasty ingredients. "If you really produce a high quality item, you'll be successful." That's the secret according to Jim and Jonathan.
The demand soon outpaced the production capacity of the small cottage kitchen, so they purchased an old 1700s barn in Kittery, Maine which they renovated to become the company's "headquarters" for a short couple years before they moved to an even larger space in York and renovated an old community grocery store. A buzzer announced customers in the retail area of the facility. All day long it would clamor: "buzz, buzz, buzz," while Jim and Jonathan were busy mixing and pouring ingredients out back, packing boxes, and answering phones. Then someone mentioned they should attend the Fancy Food Show in NYC. Having never been to New York City, they literally were two fish out of the [Maine] water when they made their first appearance at the 1995 Fancy Food Show — a tradeshow that attracts 1,100 exhibitors and 36,000 buyers, the Oscars of the specialty food industry. But low and behold, Stonewall Kitchen brought home an unprecedented award for first time attendees: Outstanding Jam for Roasted Garlic Onion Jam and a second highest honor award, for Outstanding Product Line. They left NYC with 500 orders from retailers across the country.
They once again, quickly outgrew their first York location within five, short years. After gaining much support from the local community, Jim and Jonathan purchased an eight-acre parcel of town-owned land and built their 46,000 square-foot headquarters, manufacturing and company store on Route 1 in York, Maine in 1999.
The multi-faceted space is an extension of the brand and a dream come true for Jim and Jonathan. Since moving to the new site in 2000, Stonewall Kitchen Café — a casual breakfast and lunch bistro adjacent to the company store, was added in 2003. And in 2008, the Stonewall Kitchen Cooking School opened offering classes for cooks of all skill levels. The school's goal is to encourage everyone to enjoy cooking, whether they are a novice-just learning, or a more experienced cook, while in a relaxed, "stress-free" atmosphere. The 32-seat, theater-style, state-of-the-art kitchen provides classes, demonstrations and book signings from cookbook authors, chefs and stylists from around the country.
Today, Stonewall Kitchen boasts more than 6,000 wholesale accounts nationwide, thriving catalog and web divisions, 11 retail Company Stores along the East Coast and a staff growing into the hundreds. The entire Stonewall Kitchen product line continues to be one of the most awarded in the industry year after year. Since 1995, Stonewall Kitchen has received 28 prestigious awards from the National Association of the Specialty Food Trade and has been awarded the coveted Outstanding Product Line Honors three times. The company continues to evolve ensuring its role as one of the country's most acclaimed specialty food producers.
For us, the success of Stonewall Kitchen, in creating a line of nationally recognized specialty foods, is more than just a reflection of our talents and resourcefulness as cooks and gardeners. It is heart and passion; a culmination of everything we do, and everything our employees have put into making our story a success. We have a passion for food, and our products are created to be feasts for the eyes and the palate. They are true tributes to our native New England agriculture. Fresh ingredients of the highest quality are all we use in our innovative and delicious recipes ... simple good food beautifully packaged and bursting with true flavor. And every once in awhile we still knowingly glance over at the old market table and say "thanks".
About Jim and Jonathan
Jonathan King was born in Massachusetts, graduated from Londonderry High School in New Hampshire and summered with his five siblings on Cape Neddick, Maine throughout his childhood. He graduated from the University of New Hampshire and holds a BA in Psychology and a minor in Sociology and Fine Arts. After graduating college he pursued a career in hotel management and was resident manager of a historical Connecticut inn. Eventually settling on the coast of Maine, he discovered a deep passion for cultivation. Working in greenhouses during the day and restaurants at night fostered his combined talents for horticulture and cuisine, laying the foundation of what would become Stonewall Kitchen in 1991. He serves as President and Creative Director of the company.
James Stott was born and raised in Methuen, Massachusetts and graduated from Gordon College in Wenham, MA. After graduating, Jim owned a residential construction firm in the seacoast area of New Hampshire. While earning extra money as a waiter at the renowned Blue Strawbery Restaurant in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, he met and collaborated with Jonathan to create Stonewall Kitchen in 1991 and currently serves as Vice President of the company. He can most often be found mingling with the guests in the Company Store or behind the lens of the camera in the photo studio.
Jonathan and Jim together as Stonewall Kitchen have been awarded the Governor's Business Excellence Award for the State of Maine, and were selected as the choice for Entrepreneurial Business of the Year by the Small Business Association of the State of Maine in 2002. Year after year, their specialty foods are awarded prestigious food industry awards for their products and packaging.