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Grosse Pointe 'Slow Jams' Speeding onto Store Shelves Across Metro Detroit

Grosse Pointe Farms mom behind product that mixes Michigan's agricultural bounties with principles-backed business plan.

 

The name of the product is Slow Jams jam, but business is moving anything but.

In less than a year, the Grosse Pointe born and bred jam-making start-up has made the leap from homemade and sold at a stand in Eastern Market to a commercial kitchen that's turning out hundreds of jars weekly.

From the kitchen in a Grosse Pointe Woods church, Slow Jams heads for homes, restaurants and grocery stores across metro Detroit. The jam, which comes in 22 flavors, is sold in smaller, gourmet and specialty grocers such as Plum Markets, The Produce Stations and Zingerman's Creamery.  It has also just made a big move to the shelves of 20 Kroger stores, part of a Buy Michigan promotion.

Slow Jams jam is the creation of Shannon Byrne, a Grosse Pointe Farms mom of three, gardener and a food preservationist (yes, there is such a thing). She learned about jam-making with family and friends as they tended a local backyard, community garden.

They wanted to jar the fresh harvests, and as time went on Byrne fell in love with jam-making and got inventive with the flavors -  sweet and savory. They're not only good on toast and with cheese but with meats and pasta and more.

There are 22 flavors, including tart cherry, strawberry balsamic and blueberry lavender. Recipes using the jam are on Slow Jam's blog, Facebook page and website.

Slow Jams counts accomplished restaurateurs, chefs and foodies, including Forest Grill's Brian Polcyn and David Gilbert, as customers.

"It's been amazing. We couldn't have done it without the support and guidance from the local food community," says Byrne. "We are so grateful for the success we've had, and for what we've learned."

It's come through hard work. Byrne and some of the five employees she's hired at Slow Jams "work our butts off," stirring the aromatic mixtures, pressure cooking theirs and jarring.

The heat turned up in recent weeks as Bryne and crew prepared for the Kroger shipment. Grosse Pointe area Krogers are not part of the Buy Michigan promotion which started this month and features Slow Jams, but other stores in the Pointes sell Slow Jams.

Byrne and Slow Jams are part of a growing group of metro Detroiter's following the worldwide slow foods movement, which promotes eating in a way that supports locally-grown, locally-made foods while benefitting the community and the environment. The community of metro Detroit food businesses, upstarts and veterans, is a close, supportive and energized and piling up commercial and creative success stories.

Slow Jams' appears to be one. The name is partly related to the slow foods movement, but was actually the idea of Byrne's sister-in-law, who was enjoying the jam in the days before it hit store shelves.

"She just said, 'What's the deal? Why is this so good?' " Byrne recalls. "I told her, 'the deal is we cook it really slow.' "

"It's the perfect connection to the slow food movement, our process and because we're in Detroit, a king of music, we thought the name Slow Jams was perfect, Byrne said. "People see it. It catches them. It's cute."

Just like the name, the philosophy behind Slow Jams is multi-layered and personal.

Byrne sees her small business, like so many others in Michigan, as crucial to boosting Michigan's weak economy, and she credits the loosening of cottage food laws for making it easier for home-based entrepreneurs like her to bring their products to market.

"Essentially the cottage food law was really a wonderful opportunity for us because we were able to take our product to Eastern Market, a gem in the city," she says.

Within six months, restaurants, stores and chefs were ordering and they knew they needed a commercial kitchen.

Byrne also knew she wanted to stay true to some personal principles - even in business.

"We came into this with a focus on how can we have high-quality, locally-sourced products…How can we reduce the footprint of where the the food is coming from. People want to know where their food is coming from, what's in their food. We want them to know," says Byrne.  "We hope Slow Jams continues to grow but only with an environmental focus on low waste and making our carbon footprint as small as it can be," she says.

And she hopes Slow Jams joins the many successful products that show "the amazing agriculture of this entire state."

"It's a two prong statement…There's the local food movement we believe in, and we believe Michigan has this great agricultural bounty.  We also believe diversifying the economy in Michigan is what our state needs."

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For Grosse Pointers and eastsiders Slow Jams can be bought at Breckels Massage Therapy, 16610 Mack Ave. in Grosse Pointe Park and at DCF Art Gallery and Gifts at 19571 Mack Ave. in Grosse Pointe. Rocky's and Germack Coffee Roasting Co. in Eastern Market sell the jam as does Honeybee market in Southwest Detroit.

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