JuJu’s Gourmet promotes ‘Made in Summerville’ foods

  • Friday, October 11, 2013

Local business owner Judy Thornton is shown at work in her commercial kitchen at 700 Central Ave in Summerville. She is wearing her distinctive garden hat which also appears on her product labels. “I wear the hat to illustrate how I use these images in multiple ways to draw attention to my products.”

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“I was surprised to get an invitation from SCETV’s Amanda McNulty, host of ‘Making It Grow,’ asking if I could be a guest on the program. At first, I was hesitant about being a guest, as I had little TV experience,” Judy Thornton of Summerville, owner of JuJu’s Gourmet, explained.

“You just talk about your food products, tell us what your customers say, respond to our questions about your business and be yourself,” advised McNulty, “You will enjoy the experience, and the publicity will be good for you.”

“I agreed to the appearance and it has turned out to be one of the high points in the development of my business,” added Thornton. The growth of her business traces Judy’s passion for food preparation back to the young age of 5 when she learned the art of biscuit making from her grandmother. On her website www.jujusgourmet.com, she explains her grandmother’s advice about how to bake biscuits; she continues to use that advice to make her biscuits rise to perfection.

“Little did I know then that this advice would lead me to open a commercial operation right here in Summerville to provide my products to customers and retail stores in Summerville and Orangeburg,” she proudly said.

While her business is located in a former 1200 square foot home which she purchased in 2011, it is in every way a commercial kitchen, maintaining the characteristics of her grandmother’s southern home, which is so much a part of the business culture.

Looking back, she told how she expanded JuJu’s scope of operations. “I joined the South Carolina Food Association in 2011 and became active in its program to expand awareness of various foods made within the state. This led me to meet Jackie Moore, Executive Director of the Association, who advised me to create a web site and do more advertising to improve my markets. She told me about the ETV program ‘Making It Grow’ and how it might be able to help me publicize my local products in South Carolina,” she explained.

“Mrs. Moore talked to me about my business. I explained how my products were gaining acceptance here and how we would like to show them to a larger audience. This led to my appearance on the show where we were able to showcase my pimento cheese, biscuits and sweet tea cinnamon rolls. I enjoyed being on TV, as I spent most of a day in the studio as we planned, rehearsed my portion, and then we went ‘live’ on the ETV network. I can’t thank the ETV team enough as they helped me display products so attractively and gave me a few ‘pointers’ to improve my interview,” Judy said.

During the TV show, Judy pointed out one of the key advantages JuJu’s offers.

“Not only do our customers love our recipes, but they like the extra convenience of being able to take home our products for baking and serving. Being frozen they stay ready to be baked and served whenever desired for a meal,” she said.

Thornton also pointed out local people who have helped her.

“Mr. K and his, son, Jim have really been helpful to me in getting started as my initial location for retail display and sales. They gave some really good ideas about marketing. Our local outlets have grown to include Single Smile Café and Accent on Wine in downtown Summerville, Mr. K’s Piggly Wiggly stores on Cedar Street and in Knightsville, and in Orangeburg at Five Rivers Farmers’ & Gourmet Market, she added. Judy is also looking for additional retail locations in Charleston and in Berkeley County. “We don’t want to be everywhere, but we desire to have our products on sale in stores that feature local, specialty foods,” she added.

Today’s Judy’s food items number over 22 and they be can ordered on her website at www.jujusgourmet.com, on Facebook, or by calling her at 843-225-6549.

Being a small business she is especially thankful for the help she has received. She saluted her family, her spiritual brother Chris, her wonderful friends, SCORE counselor, and the ETV team at Making It Grow. “Of course, I have to thank my local customers for selecting JuJu’s Gourmet,” she said.

Thornton said she is proud to have her own business.

“I encourage anyone thinking of opening a business to give it serious thought and then work to make the idea become a reality. I appreciate each of my customers and work diligently to insure that all are pleased with our recipes and the final dish they bake at home,” she said.

People sometimes ask me how I selected the name JuJu’s Gourmet.

“My godson couldn’t pronounce Judy, so he called me ‘JuJu’ instead. As a family we settled on the nickname ‘JuJu’. The nickname stuck and I decided to use it in business, as it is unique. Now I am finding that my customers like it too,” she added.

The latest development in her success is the recent approval of her service mark – “tastes reminiscent of your grandmother’s southern kitchen” which she proudly uses to give her products a more professional look.

JuJu’s Gourmet is located at 700 Central Ave. in Summerville and can be found on line at www.jujusgourment.com. The company is celebrating its second anniversary in October.

The program ‘Making It Grow,’ is produced by South Carolina Educational Television in cooperation with Clemson University.

JuJu’s Gourmet LLC is located at 700 Central Ave in Summerville.

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