By Steven Ziegler
Jimmy, one of our newer customer service reps, has only been here for about six months, but he has already grown used to receiving positive feedback from customers. He’s a smart young fellow that likes to help people, so nothing unusual there. But not long before Thanksgiving, Jimmy received something he did not expect, and something that was unusual---a package containing homemade jelly and homemade bread and butter pickles!
These came to him as the result of a very lively Live Chat he had with a woman who sometimes refers to herself as the Tattooed Lady. The chats themselves, while dealing with a mundane issue, were peppered with sometimes bawdy humor and slightly off-kilter references to secret tattoo locations and had already made Jimmy’s day the previous week. So the pickles and jelly were just a sweet bonus. Having done a good bit of customer service work, I will tell you there is nothing better than a fun customer. And Barb Schaller is great fun.
When we began this blog, one of the original ideas was to have a featured customer. We have so many interesting customers, whether they are commercial customers or residential ones, that we thought it would be fun to highlight some of the customers that really captured our fancy. When my boss heard about Jimmy’s conversations and the pickles and jelly that followed, he put me on the case .
In talking to Jimmy and reading a bit of their conversation, I honestly had no idea what to expect, especially when the blog she writes is called, "Hanging out with the Tattooed Lady". What I did not expect, was to see photos of a woman that looked an awful lot like my fairly conservative Mother-in-Law (by which, of course, I mean very beautiful), bedecked with medals as though she were Michael Phelps! As it turns out, our Tattooed Lady was not just a State Fair Food Competitor—she was the Michael Phelps of the Minnesota State Fair.
Shortly before Thanksgiving, I had the chance to speak with Barb. and what a delight it was! Her main passion is making jellies, but she competes in many categories. Although she never really learned how to cook as a kid, a very fruitful plum tree changed all of that. She hated seeing all of those plums go to waste. Her neighbor recommended making preserves and canning them, and that started a long and fruitful reign as the Minnesota State Fair Jelly Queen (that is my term, she has a another term for herself, that you will have to see for yourself in her blog). She started competing in 1981, and since has won hundreds of ribbons.
The Minnesota State Fair is a huge event, and winning is no easy feat. What goes into it?
"Beginning in June, I make over 400 hundred jars of jam and jelly to prepare for the Fair", she tells me. 400 jars! It doesn’t go to waste, though. Her neighbors and even strangers hound her for these practice runs. She ends up sending it to places as far off and exotic as Honolulu and New Jersey.
And all that hard work pays off. Consider these facts:
- The M.A. Gedney Company, which is a pickle company in the Upper Midwest, has a State Fair Award Winning Recipe line of products, and Barb is the only person to have two jams featured! One, her Cherry Preserves, is still one of their most popular products.
- Not only did Garrison Keillor have Barb on his show, but after tasting her corn relish, he proposed to her in front of the live audience! Fortunately for Barb’s husband, she turned Garrison down.
- She was invited to a special dinner thrown by Minnesota’s then First Lady, Mary Pawlenty. The dinner was thrown for "Minnesota’s Notable Women". Now, how good does your jelly have to be one of 35 notable women in your state?
There is much more to Barb’s story, but I am a bit limited on space, so for more, I will refer you to her blog: "Hanging out with the Tattooed Lady".
And as a special treat, Barb has allowed me to share the recipe for her award-winning brownie with you. That recipe is so good (wait until you try it!), that it deserves its own post. But in the meantime, I would like to thank Barb not just for being our first Featured Customer, not just for doing business with us, but for being a blast to do business with! And by the way, Jimmy and his family loved having those pickles at their Thanksgiving table!
Do you have an interesting or unusual business, or way of using our products? Would you like to be our Featured Customer? Barb receives a $25 credit for being our Featured Customer, and you could, too. Feel free to email me, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or let one of our customer service reps know that you are interested.