February 20, 2011

'Humble guys' turn jam into gold

The $50-million-a-year business was founded by partners with college degrees in philosophy, theology and psychology.

By J. Hemmerdinger jhemmerdinger@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

YORK - Jonathan King wears a pressed button-down shirt tucked into khaki pants. He's cleanshaven from his chin to the top of his head, and sits upright in a chair in his office at Stonewall Kitchen's York headquarters.

click image to enlarge

Jim Stott, left, and Jonathan King started Stonewall Kitchen 20 years ago, first selling jam at farmer’s markets in coastal towns throughout New England.

Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

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Jim Stott, left, and Jonathan King sell sauces on opening day at a farmer’s market in 1991, the start of Stonewall Kitchen.

Photo courtesy of Stonewall Kitchen

Across the room sits King's business and life partner, Jim Stott, who wears jeans and an unbuttoned plaid shirt over a T-shirt.

Twenty years ago, they founded Stonewall, selling jam they made in the kitchen of a cottage on Seaview Lane in Hampton, N.H.

Today, Stonewall is worth millions. And neither Stott nor King can believe their success.

"He and I are humble guys. We didn't know (anything) about business or food," said Stott excitedly, rising in his chair.

King said sometimes he stops what he's doing and just marvels at what Stonewall has become.

King and Stott, who met 22 years ago, were both born in Massachusetts.

Stott, now 56, graduated from Gordon College in Wenham, Mass., with a degree in philosophy and theology. He later worked at restaurants and at ski mountains in Aspen, Colo., before moving back East.

King, 45, went to high school in New Hampshire and has a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of New Hampshire. After school, he helped manage an inn in Connecticut and worked at a greenhouse. All the while, he made homemade jams in his spare time.

In 1991, with Stott's help, King began selling his jam at New England farmer's markets. He sold out briskly, and decided to go into the jam business full time.

"When I told my parents I was going to quit my job and sell jam, they said, 'You've lost your mind. See a shrink,' " said King.

As president and creative director of Stonewall, King is involved in the day-to-day operations of the company and helps design product catalogs.

"He's on the phone every morning running the place," Stott said.

Stott, vice president of the company, shoots catalog photographs, develops new products and acts as company "ambassador," mingling with clients and customers.

The pair own a mountainside home overlooking the ocean on Vieques, a rural, 20-mile-long island east of Puerto Rico. King and Stott built the house with mahogany imported from Brazil. They call the place Quinta Caobo -- or "fifth mahogany," a nickname originally bestowed by construction workers.

King said in the winter he leaves for Vieques every Thursday, flying from Boston to San Juan, where he hops a Cape Air flight to Vieques. He returns on Sunday.

In his free time, King plays tennis, his favorite sport, while Stott is a man of leisure.

"I like to eat and drink wine. Give me a hammock strung between two palm trees, and I am in heaven," he said.

Jonathan Hemmerdinger can be reached at 791-6316 or:



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