Eastern Market profile: Slow Jams Jam
By Sarah Rigg
In each issue of Detroit City Limits, we’ll profile a regular vendor at Detroit’s Eastern Market, focusing on some of the lesser-known vendors and products. This week: Slow Jams Jam.
Vendor: Shannon Byrne
Products: Handcrafted, locally sourced, slow cooked jams, jellies and preserves.
Location: Slow Jams are created in the Forgotten Harvest facility in Oak Park, with the owner vending in Shed 2 at Eastern Market.
Phone: (313) 318-0916
Q&A with Shannon Byrne
DCL: How did you get started making jams and preserves?
SB: We got our start in fall of 2011, originally as a cottage food business. I was part of a group of women working out of a community garden, and we decided we wanted to preserve as many Michigan-grown fruits and vegetables for our families as we could. At that time in 2011, the job situation was desperate, and making jam was something small I could do to support local farmers and the local economy. I shared my jam with family and friends, and they wanted to know why they couldn’t buy locally-sourced jam. My products are made from all Michigan fruit and Michigan sugar. I started selling first directly at Eastern Market in the fall of 2011. That was a great opportunity to test what was out there, and I found that not just individual consumers were interested in my jams, but also chefs and restaurants and specialty stores wanted to carry our product. We got licensed so we could participate in the wholesale market, and now we have grown to have a presence in the local Whole Foods Markets and Busch’s and Westborn Market and a few local restaurants as well.
DCL: How did you decide on the company name?
SB: My brilliant sister-in-law came up with it while I was figuring everything out before launching the product. She asked me what makes it unique, and why my jams are so much better. In addition to the all-local ingredients, I said it was the slow-cook process. The slow process means that the majority of my jams don’t use pectin. “Slow Jams” is a nod to the local “slow foods” movement and to the cooking method, and of course to the musical genre.
DCL: What are some of your most popular products?
SB: That’s one other thing that makes us special, that we create unique flavor varieties. Blueberry lavender, raspberry lemon verbena, and strawberry balsamic are some of our top sellers. It’s up to the cook or chef to use it intricately in a recipe or just put it on peanut butter and jelly.
DCL: Please talk about your involvement with Eastern Market?
SB: Eastern Market has been one of our biggest supporters, and a huge supporter of food business growth in Detroit. Not only do they give small starting companies the opportunity to vend their product, but Eastern Market also does a lot of behind the scenes growth for small food companies in the region.
DCL: What do you like about Detroit?
SB: I could say a million wonderful things, but as a food company, the powerful and amazing thing about Detroit is that local entrepreneurs support one another. I’ve gotten resources and information from other Eastern Market vendors, including Corridor Sausage and Ethel’s Edibles. They’ve taken time out of their busy lives to mentor me the whole way. Detroit has just an incredibly giving community of entrepreneurs who are in it for whole community, not just for themselves. That speaks to the generous nature of Detroit.
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in southeast Michigan. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.