College friends turn basement hobby into budding jelly business

NORTH ROYALTON, OHIO (WOIO) - Three college buddies have turned a basement hobby into a growing business called Cleveland Jam. It centers around beer and wine infused jellies and jams.

"I really like the Burning River Pepper Jam," said Jim Conti, founder of Cleveland Jam. "I was making wine in my basement (and) didn't want to throw away the left-over sediment. I was thinking of ideas... what I could do with this leftover sediment for."

Conti whipped up a few jars of wine infused jelly and took it to parties.

"it was a big hit," Conti said.

Months of work landed the trio a contract with Great Lakes Brewing Company to create beer infused products. About a year ago Cleveland Jam hit the jackpot.

"We got a phone call from Target," Conti said. "They wanted to carry us in their stores. So now, we're in all the northwest (and) northeast (locations) and we're working on way to the Akron/Canton area."

Dennis Schultz is the product development manager for Cleveland Jam.

"Do you guys ever sit back and say, 'Hey we did it,'" asked reporter Damon Maloney.

"We kind of have moments where we reflected back on success, but we know at the end of the day we have to keep going," Schultz said.

Conti and Schultz said a key to their success is letting people know the multiple uses for their products- it's not just for breakfast items.

"We have featured here our orange marmalade as well as our bratwurst with our Burning River Pepper Jam," Schultz said. Then we have our Eliot Ness Fig Apple Jam (that) goes great on a grilled cheese."

Other flavors can be used as marinades and even ice cream toppings.

"We want to inspire other young people to build on their dreams and aspirations," Schultz said.

Cleveland Jam is sold at several stores including Constantino's Market, Great Lakes Brewing Company, Old Brooklyn Cheese Company and several mom-and-pop stores.

Conti said plans are underway to offer their products at more retail locations.

Product is also sold at their store in North Royalton on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Right now, the jams and jellies are made off site through a co-packing agreement. Conti said plans are also underway to build a commercial kitchen at their North Royalton site.

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