By JOE HIGGINS Messenger editor
While sitting out on the deck of a newly purchased home in the middle of the woods, shooting the breeze with some friends, Craig Cornett and Kristi Hewitt talked about their financial future. From humble beginnings that started with some pickled peppers, Frog Ranch Salsa was born.
More than a decade has passed and, with the help of the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks, Frog Ranch has become a well-known entity in the local food game of the region.
Frog Ranch’s All Natural Medium Salsa is ACEnet’s and The Messenger’s Product of the Month for February. The medium salsa is said to be Frog Ranch’s No. 1 seller and a “true medium heat level” that is “not too hot, but not for wimps either.”
The product of the month is sponsored by Hocking Valley Bank. The bank’s president, Scott Nisley, has been a long time supporter of the business.
“We’ve known Craig since he started his business and have been involved throughout his career,” Nisley said.
“(He’s) unique, innovative and has a dynamic personality. I think the world of him but if you’d look at him, you’d think you were talking to a mad scientist,” Nisley added with a laugh. “He doesn’t think like a normal person, he sees opportunities before they happen.”
Nisley is a former board member of ACEnet and credits that affiliation with helping the bank find non-conventional methods to meet the unique needs of small business owners and new entrepreneurs. He said the bank has had a “good, long lasting relationship” with ACEnet and Frog Ranch and added, “We’re pleased to be associated with them.”
According to the Frog Ranch website, Hewitt is credited with the birth of the name. That night at the house, while chatting with some friends and knocking back some beers, the sound of frogs croaking filled the background.
“Kristi made the observation that at least they had purchased a nice ‘frog ranch,’” the website notes.
Cornett and Hewitt began a garden. Pepper plants sprang up in droves and — with an old family recipe from Cornett’s grandmother — the business was born.
“Friends and neighbors beat a path to their door for samples and the word quickly got out about the pungent perfection at the ‘frog ranch.’ One urging led to another and it was decided that a sincere effort should be made to further the dream,” the website reads.
The big break came when Frog Ranch All-Natural Bread and Butter Pickles and Frog Ranch All-Natural Hot and Spicy Peppered Pickles were picked up for national distribution by Kroger. That meant an increase of having Frog Ranch product in a few stores to now having it in more than 1,100 stores.
“Frog Ranch does really well for us and we enjoy being able to support local items,” said Josh Wise, manager of Kroger in Athens, “It’s a win for the community and a win for Kroger.”
Kroger is also one of the main sponsors in the Product of the Month collaboration between ACEnet and The Messenger.
“Kroger customers value locally produced products and want to see more in our stores, working with ACEnet, Kroger is able to accomplish that,” said Kathy Watkins, natural foods specialist for Kroger. “Kroger’s investment in ACEnet is an investment in the Athens community. Some of the products that have been developed through ACEnet are now sold in Kroger stores, for example, we now carry the Frog Ranch line in nearly all of our stores in the Columbus division and sales continue to climb.”
Located at 5 S. High St. in Glouster, Frog Ranch recently began production of the salsa at their new headquarters but had previously rented space from ACEnet to make the salsa. Prior to opening its own canning facility locally, Frog Ranch was forced to do so in Canada.
Sticking with the local theme, Athens artist Kevin Morgan designed the logo and label for Frog Ranch.
Frog Ranch products are available at Kroger, Meijer, Outpost Natural Foods, Copps, Rainbow, Sendik’s, Jungle Jim’s and Pick-N-Save nationally as well as online at www.frogranch.com.
Posted: Sunday, February 1, 2015 4:00 am | Updated: 9:46 am, Sun Feb 1, 2015.