Eileen O'Hara said she created her Largo-based business specializing in hot pepper jelly and other flavors out of desperation.
"I had just finished my master's in English," said O'Hara, 61. "It was the middle of the month, December 2002, and I hadn't done any holiday shopping for my family. My husband is a pepper head. He loves hot spicy food, so I made 12 jars of hot pepper jelly for his Christmas present. He shared it with some of his friends and the next thing I knew, they were bringing me habanero peppers to make more."
She was teaching research writing at Eckerd College at the time and expected to make it her career.
But creating new flavors of jellies and growing the family business took over her life. She is now president of her company, Brimstone Originals, and still teaches occasionally.
O'Hara grew up on a small garden farm in Oneida, N.Y., and learned cooking and canning as a youngster beside her mother.
Today, her company's five flavors — hot pepper, cranberry pepper, medium pepper, pineapple pepper and burgundy wine — are in demand worldwide. In 2006 and 2007, the business was a finalist in the Gallo Family Gold Medal Awards and was a recipient last year of the Pinellas County Emerging Entrepreneur Award.
Who runs the company?
My daughter, Julie Stevens, is vice president and handles our bookkeeping, invoicing, registering for trade shows and events, attending and working the shows. I'm pretty much research and development. I'm the one who likes to play with flavors and ingredients. My family and a couple of friends who like to cook do the taste testing. They all decide when a new product needs a little of this or a little of that.
Are there plans to introduce new products?
I am planning to come out with more flavors, I'm working on a new wine flavor now. We're also working on a new line of culinary gifts and products called Gala Gourmet. Products like the burgundy wine jelly and other flavors that don't have pepper in them will fit into that label. We see so many possibilities that would work with our products when we do trade shows. It's hard not to think progressively.
Where are the products sold?
They are sold only in specialty stores. In Pinellas County, the products are available at Erika's Place in Dunedin; Incredible Edibles and Janie Beane Florist, both in Clearwater; Harr's Surf and Turf in Palm Harbor; Uncorked Fine Wines & Accessories, Tastings, Mazzaro Italian Market, Z Kitchen and Peppers on the Pier, all in St. Petersburg; Gourmet Shop on 8th in Pass-a-Grille; and Changes In in St. Pete Beach. Products and recipes are available on the company's Web site.
To contact Brimstone Originals, call (727) 538-9195 or visit www.brimstoneoriginals.com .
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