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Breezy Point couple finds niche making salsa

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Dave and Lisa Jacobson have been selling their homemade salsa for the past year, and are looking to expand their business. Photo by Dan Determan2 / 2

Dave and Lisa Jacobson have been making waves with a new business venture.

For the past year, the Breezy Point residents have produced Peppy Pete's Gourmet Salsa for the public.

The couple - who has lived in the area since 2003 - has been using a family recipe of Lisa's to make salsa for friends and neighbors for the past seven years. The compliments they received led to them jokingly saying they should start selling it.

In 2010, Lisa began telling Dave in earnest that the two should get into the salsa business. He did not take her seriously at first, but finally agreed to take part in January 2014.

"It turned out to be a little more involved than anticipated," Dave said. "We had to go back to college. Fortunately, we could take the classes online. So we studied microbiology, thermal processing and several other food-related courses. We passed our exams and eventually became approved by both the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture to manufacture our salsa, provided we had a commercial kitchen to produce it in."

That kitchen came from their neighbor, Jeff Feltmann, owner of the Old Milwaukee Club Saloon & Eatery in Ideal Township. Feltmann agreed to rent his kitchen to the Jacobsons when he was not using it.

"We may not have started our business if Jeff wasn't there to help us," Dave said. "He also sells our salsa at his restaurant without taking a cut for himself."

Once getting their business off the ground, the Jacobsons began visiting area merchants in an effort to sell their salsa. Now, Peppy Pete's can be found on the shelves of Schaefer's Foods in Nisswa, Reed's Market in Crosslake and a number of other local stores. It is also served at Moonlite Bay Restaurant and Bar in Crosslake.

In the summer, they decided to look into expanding their business to try to appeal to a wider market. There was just one problem: They only had one salsa recipe. While that recipe was very well received, they knew they needed more than one "heat level." They began researching and sampling experimental recipes at community events.

Eventually, the duo developed eight new recipes.

Now the Jacobsons' greatest challenge is finding out how to properly scale their business without spending too much money or compromising their product. They approached a co-packing facility - one that already manufactures 60 brands of salsa - about having them make Peppy Pete's, but backed out when they found out the facility would not be able to use fresh vegetables, an action that, according to the Jacobsons, greatly diminished the overall product.

Now the two hope to one day build their own manufacturing facility and add jobs to the lakes area economy. No matter where the business goes, the Jacobsons admit none of their success would be possible without the support of all those who have helped them over the past year.

"Our business is still in its infancy, but it grew more than we ever thought would be possible in its first year," Dave said. "None of it would be possible without all of the help and support we received from our community."

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Dan Determan

Staff Writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal weekly newspaper.

(218) 855-5879