A Message from Friends Drift Inn
Friends Drift Inn Specialty Foods has been on the fast-track with the growth of our business. Momentum had really picked up – new opportunities were unfolding, and we were more optimistic about the future than we have been in many years. Joyce Pinson, Friends Drift Inn
So how goes it out there? Are you baking more? Are you bored out of your mind? Are you enjoying the peaceful comfort of home?
For my farmer friends and food entrepreneurs, here’s a glimpse behind the scenes at Friends Drift Inn.
It is a crazy world.
I have a ton of ideas for new recipes to share; and Charlie has a list of products he wants to develop.
This was not the time we wanted to be hunkered down. We were ready to go – full steam ahead.
Situations change in the blink of an eye.
On Wednesday, March 11 Charlie and I made our way to Lexington loaded down with 2000 jars of jam, our display booth, and a truckload of hope. The Kentucky Crafted Market show, a premier fine arts event, sponsored by the Kentucky Arts Council was to be held Friday, Saturday, and Sunday with the promise of thousands of visitors – both wholesale buyers and consumers.
This show would be the “seed money” we needed to keep cash flow and put us on the road to scaling to the next level.
We met up with chef Jeremy Ashby (Azur Restaurant and Patio, Lexington Diner, Dupree Catering) and the Food, News, and Chews crew to do a pre-recorded radio show talking about our journey to build a jam business in Appalachia. All of us were anticipating a great weekend at the show!
We talked about our certified kitchen, CANE, in Whitesburg, KY.
We talked about our mission to make “fruit forward” jams with the goal of shipping beyond the mountains and creating a business that could put people to work here in Appalachia.
Mostly we talked about being friends and the uncertainty of this adventure we call “life.”
It was coming upon the big St. Patrick’s Day celebration in Lexington – an event of spring revelry we were all ready for. Chef had a special event planned for the day – a catering gig overlooking the parade.
Hours later, Charlie was at Rupp Arena doing what he loves – sportscasting for our local girls’ basketball team Sweet 16 appearance. If you know Kentucky, you know we have a thing about basketball!
Meanwhile, I was in the hotel room going over the set-up rules for Kentucky Crafted and waiting for my niece to go out to dinner.
And then it happened. The governor cancelled the market show. Lexington cancelled the St. Patrick’s parade, too!
Precautions were put into place – everyone called upon to use common sense and stop the spread of this pandemic.
It was the right thing to do. But being a responsible adult sucks.
We lost three nights of hotel costs. We lost a month’s work of preparations, and two days of travel time in the blink of an eye.
Charlie and I came home with everything we left with – save the hope. We left most of that on the Mountain Parkway – replacing that void with high anxiety.
We know you know what we mean. We are all in the same boat. We care about our world, but we have invested lots of heart and cash into our business.
But we care about our family and community more!
My niece, a Gen X-er, has lived in the city since shortly after college. That night we talked about preparedness. Not panic – preparedness.
- Simple things like having a two-weeks supply of food.
- Thinking how much food would be needed if you were confined to home.
- Considering changing shopping habits, utilizing the farmers market more.
- Refilling prescriptions
- Making sure our parents were taken care of
In her lifetime, with the exception of the occasional snow day, the idea of being stuck at home was unknown territory.
It took her some time to wrap her head around that.
It took me some time too.
On the Home Front
Friends Drift Inn had planned on two months’ worth of shows during Kentucky’s spring. And like dominoes, one after another was cancelled including the Kentucky Derby Festival. ACK!
It is not fun watching your sales opportunities dry up in an instant!
After hours of unloading our unsold product, we went grocery shopping. Obviously, we were not going to be travelling to festivals for awhile and needed supplies for home.
It was chaos. The people were polite but in survival mode buying up all manner of food, supplies, and of course toilet paper.
I did not think the toilet paper issue was funny – we were out at home and at the office! YIKES!
Watching The Media
In the following days watched helplessly as the virus shut-down our friends’ small-businesses including cafes, restaurants, and bars. We wondered if farmers would scale back production because with restaurants closed, they had perishable product with little time to find alternative buyers.
We made a painful decision to cancel the 8th Annual Appalachian Heirloom Seed Swap – a project that is close to our hearts.
I am in self-isolation at the big red barn. I have momma in lock-down – and for her sake I am staying on the farm. Charlie is “manning” the sales room and office, going so far as to offer drive-through pickups of our jams and jellies for our local community.
It has been gloomy, rainy and chilly here in the mountains. No chance to shut-down office operations and go plow the fields. Mud is not plowable; just in case you were wondering.
Like you, I am cleaning out my cupboards, binge baking, and watching entirely too many episodes of Chopped. I sorted out my personal garden seeds – because we are going to have to grow ingredients not just for the business but for our family.
Finding Hope and Giggles
I’ve not lost my giggles. Working from home with little human contact is just what I do.
Sometimes the solitude becomes too much – but there is always facebook. I enjoy connecting with y’all there!
So What Are You Doing To Build Your Business?
I will reach out to my mentors and try to make sense of it all.
My mind races with all the things we want to accomplish in 2020 and 2021.
Knee-jerk reactions and dropping back and punting are distasteful to me – but what you gonna do?
I wonder how Friends Drift Inn should pivot during these trying times.
Should we post more recipes using jam? Should we concentrate on putting a cookbook together? Should we figure out how to do video updates from the farm and kitchen?
If we do not regain sales momentum, it will be a long road back.
It makes my head hurt.
We will be alright, by the grace of God. But this sure has not been the joyful spring we were dreaming of.
If you can spread some love, order our jam online. It is time to stock up for Easter, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day gifts.
We bid you peace.
Go wash your hands! Giggles