This week we're shining the spotlight on Celebrate Local family member Dwight Seeley, owner of Grandma Fair's plum pudding! Stop by our Easton store this Saturday, November 19 from 3:30-5:30pm and Sunday, November 20 from 12-2pm for samples and to meet the maker!
What's the story behind your business, and how did you get started?
Plum pudding has been a holiday tradition in my family since I can remember. The recipe has been passed down in my Mother's family tree for 5 generations (maybe more). Growing up, the smell of the plum pudding coming out of the oven always signified the start of the holidays, as it was served first at Thanksgiving. As an adult, I have been serving it for Thanksgiving and gatherings throughout the holiday season for 30 years.
The decision to start a business around plum pudding was inspired by my affiliation with the DublinAM Rotary and our Club's commitment to encouraging charitable entrepreneurialism. I am also inspired by Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. The story has captivated me since I was a boy. So, the idea came to me that maybe I could sell Plum Pudding and donate a portion of the profits to helping children whose lives have been affected by illness, disease, or an accident that has left them physically challenged. It seemed like a perfect match...to be able to share my family's wonderful and unique holiday tradition and to help children as a result.
I started working on the idea in early 2014. The journey has been filled with surprises. Here are some highlights: First: The decision to name our business was easy. My Grandma Fair's recipe was handed to me by mother years ago on an index card with notes from her original recipe. We always called it Grandma Fair's Plum Pudding...even when Mom made it. Second: Gretchen Blatt, the daughter of a neighbor was working for a marketing firm and could put a label together for us. I sent her a small piece of old wallpaper from my Mother's kitchen in the house I grew up in for a background and she got started. Third: After working with several illustrators, I chose the portrait of Grandma Fair (actually drawn from a picture of my Mother) that was submitted by a Worthington Christian High school student, Will Deffet. He responded to an email, along with a couple of professional illustrators, I put out in my neighborhood. What was uncanny about his work is the picture actually reminds me a little more of my Grandma Fair than my Mother. Fourth: The original label and portrait of Grandma Fair had been drawn by a friend of my son's at Miami University of Ohio, Robin Hoerth. Now, Robin is a glassblower and not an illustrator and yet she is credited with the first attempt. I took the label to some friends and they thought Grandma Fair looked scary...and since Robin had gone off to accept an apprenticeship in Seattle, I had to resort to the neighborhood email. Robin did create our "mascot" trademark...the little boy with a crutch. He might remind you of a certain character in A Christmas Carol. It is he who signifies our charitable mission to donate 10% of our profits to children who are physically challenged in some way.
When I started the business, I reached out to local producers: Lynd's Fruit Farm for my apples, Vincenzo's of Dublin for breadcrumbs, and Raj Hora, owner of Tutto Vino in Dublin for raisins and dates. All were so supportive. Our FDA approved kitchen producing the plum pudding was ARC Industries' Sunapple Kitchens...no longer in business. Each year since 2014 I have had to make significant changes in one or more aspects...from new labels, to moving from dates to raisins, to finding a new co-packer to produce my product...and the list of detail changes goes on and on. Thankfully, this year we have already doubled our sales and the holiday season has just begun. Savory Food Creations of Oakwood Village, Ohio is our new co-packer and Grandma Fair's is featured in three baskets sold by Buckeye Baskets, an affiliate of United Disability Services (UDS) in Akron. We are set up to sell through our web site for the first time and we are available at Whole Foods in Dublin in addition to Celebrate Local Ohio. The journey continues and I am hopeful our mission to help children, our "Scrooge Legacy", will begin to become a reality. "God Bless Us Every One"
What makes your products unique?
It’s Plum Pudding! That’s pretty unique don’t you think? How many times have I heard…”wow, I’ve heard of plum pudding but never tried it…what’s in it…plums and…?”. Well, first there are no plums in Grandma Fair’s Plum Pudding…and many other versions of plum pudding too. In the 17th, 18th and early 19th century England, "plums" referred to raisins or other fruits. Grandma Fair says “serve it with the meat...piping hot!” Some have suggested it would be great with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream for dessert. It does have raisins, red tart cherries, apples, breadcrumbs, cinnamon, cloves and a little beef suet to make it taste wonderful and keep the tradition. These ingredients meld to create a sweet and savory experience that if served traditionally…with the meat…compliment ham, turkey, duck or pork. And it’s really good as dessert too. And it’s just the right compliment to your holiday table…in addition to knowing that 10% of our profits will go to benefit children who are physically challenged.
What do you like about being part of the Celebrate Local Family?
Celebrate Local is wonderful. I have not had the opportunity to take advantage of the many services and networking opportunities partly because of so many of the changes we have had to deal with in startup. I have benefited from some of the free webinars though and believe that due to a number of things that have happened this year, I will be able to take advantage of more opportunities in 2017. Especially attending some of the shows that Celebrate Local helps register for and being more proactive about getting my product out there in the off season. Celebrate Local is a great incubator concept and I believe in the success it will help bring to Grandma Fair’s. I would recommend Celebrate Local to any new start up. Thanks for letting me be part of the family!
You can find Grandma Fair's Plum Pudding at our Easton Town Center store and on our website.