The Foodies: Deb's Delight
The eight-ounce jar of cherry almond jam from Deb’s Delights feels good in your hand. Just the right size, it won’t disappear in a week, but neither will it sit on a back shelf of the refrigerator for a year. An oval-shaped floral pattern evokes Grandma’s kitchen curtains, or perhaps Mom’s well-worn apron.
The top of the jar twists off with an unmistakable pop, indicating a tight, well-sealed container. Then the aroma wafts out, a perfect mixture of tart cherries and almond extract—let the toast or roll or muffin wait as you pass the jar under your nostrils a few more times. Finally, you add the jam to your prebuttered surface. Upon finishing and closing the jar, you will notice the two cherries and the three almonds on the label and wonder: How did they think of mixing a nut and a fruit? But wait, almonds are actually the seeds of one of the earliest domesticated fruit trees. This delicious mixture is a creative and skillful blend of two very distinct fruits.
Deb Dechart of Deb's Delights
The person responsible for Cherry Almond Jam and many other equally distinctive edible creations is Deb Dechert, whose company is Deb’s Delights. Dechert started her business over twenty years ago in her East Aurora basement. Armed with inspiration from her late grandmother and her mother, and an abiding memory of the old wooden cupboard in a dirt cellar at her grandparent’s house, Dechert first created a small startup business that could generate income and keep her at home doing something she truly enjoys. Dechert recalls jar after jar of jams, chili sauce, pickles, tomatoes, and pears, all neatly canned and stored by women who didn’t want their garden’s output to go to waste.
After obtaining food processing certificates from Cornell University and the Food and Drug Administration and a license from New York Agriculture and Markets, Dechert set up her home basement as kitchen, canning room, sales office, and storage room. She then set out to build the business through word of mouth and a regular presence at local craft, food, and art festivals, and at a handful of farmers’ markets. The outdoor setup varies little from place to place—there are always free samples, products for sale, and the friendly face of Dechert herself. That small home business has expanded to “full-time plus” for Dechert and part-time work for three employees.
The product line, now exceeding eighty distinct items, has grown through experimentation and customer input to include a variety of pickles, pickled garlic, chili sauces, salsas, jams, pepper jellies, no-sugar jams, and other favorites. The best sellers are the Almond Cherry Jam and Deb’s Dare Ya’ Dills, Chile Pepper magazine award winners that are made with habanero and garlic. All of the products are made from original recipes, using no coloring agents, preservatives, corn syrup, or other fillers.
In addition to the hands-on work in the kitchen, Dechert spends a significant amount of time developing her sales and distribution network. Her products are now available in several retail shops on Main Street in East Aurora; a growing number of Wegmans, Tops, and Dash’s stores; and the five outlets of D’Avolio Olive Oils & Vinegars.
The steady growth of the business has resulted in a move from the original East Aurora basement site to a spec-ready space in the Broadway Market. This is Deb’s Delights’ first brick-and-mortar location and provides adequate room for product testing and development. Dechert looks forward to greater local and regional market penetration, new opportunities to “co-pack” products for private label and store brands, and the on-going tweaking of existing mail-order and online commerce portals.
Margaret M. Toohey is CEO and owner of the Lewiston Insurance Agency.