A Chat With Justin Rashid, founder and president, American Spoon Foods
CS: Have you had any mentors in this business or business in general?
JR: Probably not in the formal sense. Living up here in a small town, not in an urban area, you’re somewhat isolated up here. But I’ve long admired Chuck Williams [Williams-Sonoma founder] as the consummate merchant of not only specialty foods, but tabletop and cookware. But my area is specialty foods, and I admire him as a individual with impeccable tastes who really focused on his customers.
Locally, there’s a guy none of your readers would know named Jerry Olson. He was a Travers City, Mich-based retailer who I respected immensely. He’s gone now, but Jerry raised his own herd of buffalo; he was a visionary and operated his own small scale cannery in the back of his store. He basically went his own way, loved what he was doing. I spent a lot of time talking with him. He was a real inspiration.
And as I mentioned, my parents. My father owned those family grocery stores with my uncle, but he loved his customers, suppliers and commerce in general. But even after he sold his stores, visiting farms, farmers’ markets, and peddling fruit was his hobby.
My mother was an Indiana farm girl, a real nature lover, an outdoors person. And at 86 she still keeps her own garden. She’s got 100 acres about 12 miles from here. She still picks wild berries and pickles her own vegetables and I guess I’m clearly most influenced by them.
CS: My grandfather owns a fairly large plot of land and when he’s able to he picks a lot of his own raspberries, blackberries and mulberries and we’ll occasionally end up with large containers of those. Although I’ve had to learn how to make raspberry pie just to use them up.
JR: You’re very lucky. Raspberry pie is one of the great luxuries of life. I wouldn’t complain! You’ve got to find something to do with them!