by Joni Astrup
Julie Peil had worked in sales, customer service and marketing for a number of years before being laid off in 2009.
It ended up being the turning point that launched her work life in a completely different direction.
“I really wanted to do something else. So I thought, ‘Wow. It’s an opportunity,’” she said.
Over the years Peil had made jams and other food items and given them as gifts. Her sister kept telling her, ‘You should be selling this stuff.’
So, post layoff, Peil launched Aunt Jules’ Jams. She also works part-time at Edward Jones.
Peil is in her fourth year selling her products at the Elk River Farmers Market, which runs from 2-6 p.m. Thursdays in downtown.
“I love selling. I love meeting people and it’s nice to develop a clientele,” said Peil, who lives in St. Michael.
One of the things that sets her jams apart is the fact that they contain significantly less sugar than typical jams. Her motto is twice the fruit and half the sugar.
“I wanted to appeal to kids and I wanted to give their parents a healthier product,” she said.
Some of her jams have kid-friendly names like Razzy Peach and Blue Rhu (blueberry rhubarb).
But they also appeal to people like Bonnie Steinke, who was one of the customers at Peil’s booth last week. Steinke likes the fact that the jams are homemade and have less sugar.
Peil grows some of the produce that she turns into jams and other products. But most of the fruit she picks locally with her husband, Fred, a retired UPS driver.
Hodgepodge is her best seller. The jam includes strawberries, blueberries, peaches and rhubarb. Strawberry rhubarb is her customers’ second favorite jam.
Strawberry habanero has its own following. It includes strawberries and habanero pepper. Because of the peppers, it’s the only jam she can’t make with half sugar.
She also sells things like pickles and applesauce.
Samples are always available so people can try before they buy.
The Elk River Farmers Market runs through Oct. 3. For more information, go to www.elkrivermn.gov