Imagine your fiancé returning home to California from visiting his parents in Milford, Delaware, and asking you your thoughts on moving east to open a produce stand. Most women might worry their partner is in the midst of some sort of crisis; Janece Pipon saw the excitement in her fiancé A.J.’s eyes and took it as a sign to consider the wild idea.
It was 2020, and COVID-19 had started to dismantle everyone’s life as they once knew it. “I was burned out in California,” recalls A.J., who ran an embroidery and screen-printing business. Janece worked in the fitness industry, opening a small gym pre-COVID. “I had a pretty good following, but COVID unfortunately shut me down,” she says.
The couple was at a crossroads. Janece was hesitant to move all the way across the U.S. and leave her family and friends. “Initially, I didn’t know about this huge leap and going to a state I didn’t even know existed,” says Janece, “but I said, ‘I’m gonna jump with you.’ The only caveat is if we’re not happy after giving it 100% we can come back.”
But moving across the country to The First State was hardly the end of the California couple’s adventure. The couple opened Coastal Croft, a farmstand in Milton, where they sell fresh produce, flowers, Amish breads, local honey and jars of Backyard Jams and Jellies, a local business owned by Krista Scudlark.
“I’m gonna jump with you. The only caveat is if we’re not happy after giving it 100% we can come back.”
Krista started making jelly about 30 years ago and would give it to friends and family and as teacher and hostess gifts. She never intended for her hobby to grow and expand into a bustling business called Backyard Jams and Jellies that left her stretched thin and having to turn down new wholesale customers.
“When I started making it, I was home with young children and would use whatever we had in our backyard, like strawberries, raspberries and blackberries.” She started selling her homemade product at farmers markets around 18 years ago. “That’s when it really kicked into high gear and turned into a hobby gone wild,” says Krista.
Recently, though, making jam started to feel more like a chore. “I started to feel like I couldn’t keep up anymore, says Krista. “I was working every day from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. I loved it, but it was too much. I’ll be 65 this September and my husband retired last summer, so I started to think, what’s wrong with this picture?”
Even though she was considering selling her business, she worried no one would be able to successfully take the reins. “I just do so much. I had 25 years of it happening little by little by little where someone new would just be jumping into it,” she says.
A.J. and Janece only had space at their farmstand to sell about six jars at a time, quickly selling out each time they restocked. “I wanted to purchase her product wholesale but sadly Krista told me she couldn’t take on any new customers,” recalls A.J. “So, I tracked her down at the Historic Lewes Farmers Market and asked her, ‘what can I buy for $200?’ We just felt we couldn’t disappoint our customers, so I was willing to pay retail for her product.”
The couple knew that many of their customers came specifically just to buy the jams and jellies and would often buy other items while they were there. “I went back to the Lewes Farmers Market again to purchase more jelly from her, which is when she finally revealed that she was thinking of selling the business.”
Krista recalls A.J.’s “nagging” persistence. “I finally told him that I was planning on selling the business, but that I would make sure the new owner kept him well-stocked,” she laughs.
When A.J. heard that, the last thing on his mind was owning a jams and jelly business. But after thinking it over and plenty of prayer, A.J. and Janece felt like they needed to do it. “We wanted to support something local, and it already paired so well with our business with the stand,” says Janece.
While the couple admits that the kitchen is unfamiliar territory for them (Janece even confessed to never owning or wearing an apron in her life), Krista had a good feeling about them. “They just seemed like really good people.”
Krista says that it’s been hard to let go a little bit; she is still involved and helping make sure the transition is a success. “I just got off the computer updating and double-checking recipes and I’m going into the kitchen with them tomorrow. I’m still working with them, so it isn’t like I left the business cold turkey,” says Krista. But she readily admits that she is enjoying her extra free time. “I bought a big cushy chair and I’m reading and playing a few video games. I went for a walk on the beach this morning and I’m working on some stained-glass projects,” she says.
While the couple is still trying to wrap their heads around the more than 85 flavors they inherited, they decided to create a jam club to test out new flavors. “It’s kind of like a secret society. Every member has their own code name, like Miss Strawberry or Mr. Banana. When we create a new recipe, we mail out a sample to each member, who records their feedback on the flavor,” says A.J. Krista is a member, of course, but the couple is mum about the other nine members.
For now, the cost for the jams and jellies is still $10 (they did raise the price on the sugar-free options to $12), and they are keeping the nostalgic Ball jars and fabric tops. They also designed a logo that looks like a heart made out of jelly. “Our motto, which is a little cheesy, is trying to spread the love in more ways than one,” says A.J. “It’s not just about selling jams and jellies; it’s about selling it to a community that really enjoys the product.”
JANECE AND A.J.’S LOCAL FAVS
- Coffee spot The Backyard in Milton
- Date night restaurant Henlopen City Oyster House
- Beach activity Stand-up paddleboarding
- Shop Sierra Moon Surf & Skate
- Fav thing about Delaware We love how you get the best of both worlds; country and coastal. Delaware is where the soil meets the surf.
KRISTA’S LOCAL FAVS
- Beach Cape Henlopen State Park
- Beach activity Walking the local bay beaches
- Dish Salmon Napoleon at Big Fish Grill
- Coffee spot Gaia
- Shop D & D Stained Glass in Millsboro
- Ice cream King’s vanilla ice cream.
HOW TO MAKE JAM
1. Pick or purchase (preferably local), fruit. 2. Measure the appropriate amount of fruit for the recipe and place in a large jam pot. 3. Crush the fruit with a potato masher, add the sugar and when it comes to a boil, add pectin. 4. Boil again and ladle the jam into hot, sterilized jars, then place in a boiling water bath for five to 10 minutes. 5. Take out the jar and let it cool. 6. Label it, top it with some cute fabric and voilà — yummy jam!