Sunday , July 10, 2016 - 5:45 AM
Nestor Robles, left, hands a bag of jam to Zoe Stevenson at the Ogden Farmers Market on Saturday, July 9, 2016. Robles started O-Town Kitchen in 2015 while he was a student at Weber State University. The company employees women from the YCC Family Crisis Center to make jams and jellies.
Nestor Robles, vice president, was in Ogden. Isaac Farley, the founder, was in Logan. The pair keep very busy in the summertime, handling office tasks at Weber State Downtown and selling preserves at festivals and markets. A day before the Saturday markets, O-Town Kitchen was at Layton Commons Park participating at the Standard-Examiner Davis Block Party.
More than a year after the small business launched, things are looking good as Farley’s idea has seen fruition — to gather soon-to-expire food from markets and restaurants, along with food donations, and have homeless parents prepare the food. A contract with Your Community Connection in Ogden helps supply workers.
Aside from business operations, workers learn cooking and food preparation skills, as well as sales skills. The food is prepared at YCC, Farley said.
O-Town Kitchen’s founder feels empathy for those who help the business succeed. Farley and his family were once homeless.
PRESERVES ARE BIG SELLERS
The preserves have been the big success. Julee Smith, YCC executive director, said customers raved about the jams at North Ogden’s Cherry Days and they are selling well in Ogden.
“The first weekend of the Ogden Farmers Market, we broke every record we had last year,” Farley said.
Every flavor usually sells a couple of cases, and that means 14-16 jars, Robles said. Jams include strawberry chocolate jam, Gamer’s Dew jelly, pineapple jelly, Straw-Banero jam and more.
“It’s amazing how good the food is. When I stopped by the booth they were out,” Smith said.
The food is good, but O-Town Kitchen is fulfilling its mission of providing work for homeless mothers. YCC has referred several to O-Town and they are progressing well.
“It’s fun to watch their progress. Early on, they’re a little nervous. (But) after a while, you hear them laughing and gaining self-confidence,” Smith said.
LONG-TERM BUSINESS GOALS
Farley and Robles discuss their growth goals at their office tucked into the second floor of Weber State Downtown.
“Our goal is to be in just about every grocery store in the state,” Farley said. The duo is close to finalizing a deal with a major grocery provider in Utah, they said.
Robles said the business would also like to achieve its own store-front location.
Their preserves are for sale at three Ogden locations: Wisebird Bookery, 4850 Harrison Blvd.; Weber State University’s downtown bookstore, 2314 Washington Blvd; and Grounds for Coffee, 3005 Harrison Blvd. They are also available at Simply Eden, 2612 N. Highway 162 in Eden.
The business recently made a presentation to 1 Million Cups, a national program connecting entrepreneurs with marketing lessons and advice on engaging with other businesses, Farley and Robles reported.
WEBSITE SELLS PRESERVES
Preserves are also available at O-Town’s website, otownkitchen.com, which also has a recipes page for cheese balls, salad dressing and steak sauce.
“We got some really yummy recipes,” Robles said.
Both say it takes a lot of phone calls, meetings, planning and marketing to build a business.
“It’s helped a lot with my interpersonal skills,” Farley said. He said he used to be shy, but now “I’ll tell anyone who is interested what we’re doing.”