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Elaine and Edward Riopelle have been canning all their lives and started a canning business in Hillsdale in 2006. Jordyn Pair | Collegian
Elaine and Edward Riopelle have been canning all their lives and started a canning business in Hillsdale in 2006. Jordyn Pair | Col­legian

When Elaine Riopelle wanted to see her niece get married, she found herself in a sticky sit­u­ation — the wedding was in Jamaica, and she and her husband Edward Riopelle didn’t have the money to go.

So, they set up a card table at the local farmers’ market.

“We took the mustard, four jams, a dip, and some quick breads up to the [farmers’ market],” Elaine Riopelle said. “In eight weeks, we made enough money to go to Jamaica. It just kind of grew from there.”

Six years later, they have replaced the card table with two 6‑foot tables and a canopy. Under­neath, they sell mus­tards, jams, breads, pickled products, and small pies, as well as dips, rubs, and bread oil dry mixes as Elaine’s Kitchen Delights. Prices range from $1.50 to $12, although bulk orders are available for a higher price.

“She sold a half a gallon of mustard to a cus­tomer over the winter,” Edward Riopelle said.

Choosing a cooking business wasn’t random. Being resourceful, as well as cooking and canning, is ingrained in both fam­ilies.

“My mom canned between 2,500 to 3,000 jars a year,” Elaine Riopelle said. “Nothing went to waste in our house.”

Edward Riopelle, too, comes from a canning family.

“My mother didn’t can near as much as hers did, but I’d say we did between 500 and 800 jars a year of various products,” he said.

Many of the mustard and jam recipes they use have been passed down from Elaine Riopelle’s great-grand­mother. Although the recipes orig­i­nally come from a cookbook, she follows the pen­ciled-in alter­ations made to them.

“Some of the recipes in there too are index cards or pieces of paper shoved in the cookbook,” Elaine Riopelle said.

While some of the recipes are familiar, others are more unusual, such as tomato jam, elder­berry jam, and corncob jam.  Elaine Riopelle has also created her own recipes, like her caramel apple crisp and rasp­berry mango jams. The couple cur­rently offers 28 vari­eties of jams, although that number fluc­tuates as they rotate products.

Their resource­fulness goes beyond canning, though: they forage most of the fruits they use from their own property.

“The birds have been helping us plant wild black­berries,” Edward Riopelle said. “I’ve got two nice patches because of them.”

They also use repur­posed jars for their products.

“What we can’t reuse, we recycle,” Edward Riopelle said. “We believe in taking care; it’s our little part we can do.”

Last year, they sold 600 jars of jam, 600 pies, and 250 jars of mustard.

Two cus­tomers were Thom and Marty Lantz, who visit Hillsdale around three times a month from Maumee, Ohio.

“We’re small business owners, so we really think it’s important to support the local people,” Marty Lantz said.

The Riopelles cite God and their faith as the reason for their success.

“We’ve been asked to go to a dif­ferent Farmers’ Market on Sunday and we’ve always said no because church is very important to us,” Elaine said. “I think God has been faithful to us [because of that].”

The couple attends the Hillsdale Assembly of God church, where they help host the craft and gift bazaar. Elaine’s Kitchen Delights can next be found at the bazaar on November 12, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The money they make is put toward things like travel and house ren­o­va­tions.

“Since we’ve [started doing] the market and the craft shows, we’ve gone to Jamaica, taken an Alaskan cruise, been to Hawaii, bought new living room fur­niture and lamps, and bought a whole new bedroom set,” Edward Riopelle said. “It’s going to take us a couple of years, but we’re planning on putting a small addition on the back of the house.”

Both have other jobs and see Elaine’s Kitchen Delights as a way to work together and sup­plement their income as they move toward retirement.

“We enjoy being together,” Edward Riopelle said. “It’s a labor of love. We enjoy it with each other, and we like what we do besides the time together. I think that’s really what keeps it going.”

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Jordyn Pair
Jordyn Pair is from Milford, Michigan and plans to study Rhetoric and Public Address and Journalism. She has previously written for Spinal Column and The Madonna Herald, Madonna University's school newspaper. She enjoys writing, photography, and videography, as well as choir, martial arts, and blogging. She plans to pursue a career in journalism. email: jpair@hillsdale.edu | twitter: @jordynpair