Two weeks ago, Tammy Craddock was conjuring up vanilla bean cheesecakes. Last week, she worked on a brandy peach variety. Both flavors represent two of the 60 types of cheesecakes she makes by hand for Jubilations Cheesecakes in Columbus.
“We have the capacity to make 720 cheesecakes a day, all from scratch, by hand,” said Craddock, founder and president of the Columbus-based dessert company she started in her kitchen 21 years ago as a stay-at-home mom. “Fortunately, we’re all hard workers. Unfortunately, all of the dishes we use have to be washed by hand, and Julius is our hard-working dish washer.”
With 50 customers in the South, and recent additions in New Jersey and New York, Craddock is gaining a reputation as “the Mississippi cheesecake lady.”
“It kinda gives me a twist,” she said, with a laugh. “Most people say ‘Cheesecakes? From Mississippi?’ That seems unlikely to folks outside the South. And I say, ‘Yep, and they’re very good!’”
Stephen Stolk has peddled his line of Mississippi-made barbeque products to metropolitan markets like Atlanta, Chicago, Houston and Vermont, where he has garnered an impressive share of the market. One business booster: swathing pork, chicken and ribs with Steve’s Magnificent Barbeque & Grilling Sauce in regional and national barbeque-cooking contests, where he often picks up prizes — and lots of publicity.
“Everyone relates to Southern barbeque,” said Stolk.
The Mississippi Gift Company, the only mail order catalog company and retail outlet that exclusively sells products made in Mississippi, promotes an eclectic mix of popular and lesser-known Mississippi-made products, such as Peppermint Snaps, creatively packaged in quart and gallon paint cans, Vicki Carroll pottery, Sister Mary Bertolli prints, Fat Mama’s Knock-You-Naked Margarita Mix, Mississippi Coffee Company Coffee, Mississippi Gourmet Cheese Straws, Wheeler’s Cajun Cornbread Mix, Lusco’s Salad Dressing, Oak Hill Plantation assorted chocolates, Mississippi Mud Fudge Cake in a jar and other novelties such as Mississippi Crooked Letter T-shirts and Shotgun Shell Lights.
“There are even more Mississippi products that we don’t even know about to market,” said company founder Cindy Tyler.
Mississippi-made products will get the ultimate boost when the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce (MDAC) opens the first phase of the State Farmers’ Market at the Mississippi Fairgrounds in Jackson next June, in a high visibility location at the corner of Jefferson and High Streets near Interstate 20. About 20,000 cars pass by the intersection on a daily basis.
Initially, space will be available for 32 vendors, who will retain 100% of the food dollar.
“We have found that the truly successful farmer’s markets have been producer-only markets, so that’s our intention with the new market being built,” said Patrick Sullivan, bureau director of MDAC’s market development division.
Construction officially began July 26 on the initial phase of the $2.4-million project, which the U.S. Department of Agriculture — from whom MDAC secured a $35,000 federal grant to study consumer expectations and to help recruit farmers — will use as a model for the rest of the nation. Construction should begin in the summer of 2006 on the second phase, an enclosed retail portion with a bakery, café and flower shop.
“The farmer’s market will be a great way to get farmers and consumers who love fresh home-grown produce together,” said Sullivan. “It will be a good marriage.”
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at email@example.com.