Monkeypod Jam expansion
Aletha Thomas, owner and founder of Monkeypod Jam, has been crafting gourmet jam and jellies for the past five years. What started as a hobby has blossomed into a successful product line of 55 seasonal preserves made from fruit grown by 25 Kaua‘i farmers. Last December, Thomas made the move to a brick-and-mortar retail location in Lawa‘i, one with a commercial kitchen that can handle her production demand. Thomas shares her thoughts on her journey to becoming a local jam mogul.
What challenges did you face transitioning from farmers’ market vendor to brick-and-mortar retailer?
The biggest challenge was knowing when we were ready to make the leap. For over five years we cooked our fruit preserves in a retired Dairy Queen kitchen. Our refrigeration consisted of two chest freezers and two upright refrigerators. In our fourth summer, we had to turn away fruit because we didn’t have anywhere to store it. We knew we needed walk-in refrigeration to accommodate the immense amount of fruit Kaua‘i farmers were delivering each week.
On Kaua‘i, functioning, legal commercial kitchens are very scarce. Luckily for us, a strong relationship with our Central Pacific Bank ‘ohana created a growth opportunity. Our business banker actually discovered our new Lawa‘i location. Our bank also helped us finance the move and transitional period, which can easily deplete a small business of its resources.
Apart from increased production, what other benefits does the new location provide?
Our new Lawa‘i location combines our commercial kitchen with our warehouse space. It also supplies a retail location. Having our team all working out of one space helps eliminate communication errors and is definitely raising morale. Knowing we are all in this together while working side by side in the kitchen and warehouse areas fosters a feeling that we are in this together. Hawai‘i is so visitor driven that it only makes sense to have a place for Kaua‘i tourists to see where and how all the jammy operations take place. Our new location is bringing all three areas under one roof, creating a highly functional yet inviting home for Monkeypod Jam.