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.”