To tell the story of our business, we should share the story of our life. This business was born out of love and a longing to do something meaningful. Eric and I (Erin) met at the Taste of Peoria in 2008, where we were each standing in a group of friends. We kept meeting each others eye across the way, but that was all. Eric started to walk away, and something told me not to let him go. I literally chased him down, and that was that.
And so our story begins, with food and a desire to be together.
We were both in jobs that were okay and that paid the bills, but we found ourselves seeking something more fulfilling. I had a Culinary Arts degree, and Eric was in Graphic Design but had a passion and talent for gardening. When Eric was laid off from his position and I had a summer off ahead of me, we decided to collaborate on a stand at the farmers market. He would grow his produce and I would bake under a Cottage Food License, which allows you to sell baked goods at the market that were prepared in your home.
We joined forces on making jam to go along with the other items we'd be selling, and this was the start of a truly magical season in our life.
We were engaged and getting married in September of 2013, right after our first market season. So we'd spend the week scouring Upick farms for what fruit was at its peak, we'd go picking, and then come home and spend a couple days cleaning our haul and making the jam. Fun Fact: We were called Harms Farms at our market stand, but when we went brick & mortar we called ourselves JamBerry, after the 1980's children's book about a boy and a bear picking berries for jam. Our signature pastry came to be when we were looking for a baked good to highlight our homemade jam. It was a cross between a pop-tart and a pie, and we wanted to call it something unique....and thus the jam pocket was born.
We found success among the market community and absolutely loved spending the week preparing and working hard to go to market, set up, and just get to talk to people about what we were doing. Toward the close of the summer, our friends were riding bikes on the rock island trail and discovered this very charming brick building with a for rent sign in the window. They told us about it and we made the phone call. Our wedding was about a month away, and we felt as though the world was our oyster. Without much thought, we decided to go for it. We signed the lease, got married, and had hopes to open within a few months. And then we were thrown a bit of a curveball.
Sometimes when you're in love, you make a baby. And so we had.
Occasionally we look back upon our wedding as the last day we felt so carefree. We'd be lying if we said life continued on like a fairy tale. To be honest, it got really hard. I was pregnant and working to cover the rent we were now paying on the building. Eric was spending all of his time trying to get us in a position to open before the baby came...hand painting the sign, seeking out equipment, working on the menu, studying coffee, etc. etc. We had bitten off a lot, and now there was no turning back. To make a long story kind of short, we were not able to open until 6 weeks after our son was born. I often tell people I don't really recommend opening a business with an infant! We only had one car at the time, so we'd all load up at 6:00 a.m. to get in and make the proverbial donuts. I would nurse my baby behind a screen in the dining room of the shop, which was empty at the time because we couldn't afford tables & chairs! He would doze off to sleep and I'd get to work, taking advantage of any spare minute I had. Sometimes I cried.
But we were together, and for that we were all thankful.
Things are still overwhelming, but it gets easier all the time. We're very proud to look at where we started and what we've done. Our son is not a baby anymore. He's growing and so is our business. It goes hand in hand I think. The life of a small business owner is not exactly as I had pictured. It's unpredictable and chaotic and lovely, sometimes all in the same day. And still, it is my dream come true, even in the hard times. So I want to truly thank you for supporting our family and our dream. We all have the right to choose where to spend our money, direct our energy, & focus our priorities. As for us, we will continue to focus on creating quality food & drinks from scratch, and we hope you will continue to support our endeavor. We aim to make our establishment inviting and warm, and we hope you feel like family when you visit. Please stop in and join us as we continue to evolve, but know that we promise to always keep it small & simple.
With love and gratitude,
Erin, Eric & Ever Harms