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Meet Ralph Brunson of Papi’s Kitchen in Lavon

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ralph Brunson.

Ralph, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Most of my career was as a store manager for a very large retail chain I would routinely work 55 to 60 hours a week and after 27 years I decided for health reasons I needed to step away from that and take an early retirement so we sold our home and moved to a property that had some acreage I had been thinking about raising chickens and planting a garden, and that’s what we did. I was shocked at how well my little garden did, it was producing way more than my family could eat so I started looking at ways to Preserve my harvest, I had lots of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and other items, so I made pickles, relishes and salsa. Soon my pantry was full and I was running out of space so I would give jars away to family and friends, one of my friends like the salsa so much he asked for more and offered to pay, I refused his payment and gave him a couple of jars, he suggested I put a label on the jars and sale them, I laughed and didn’t think any more about it, but my garden kept producing and my pantry was still full.

Then one day I saw a post on Facebook looking for vendors to sell their products at a Farmers Market in Mesquite, so I contacted the guy and asked about setting up at the market I told him what I had to sell and he said great but you won’t be able to sell salsa unless it’s made in a commercial kitchen, you can sell your pickles and relish or if you make jellies and jams you could sell them. I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t sell my salsa, but I did research recipes for pepper jellies, I experimented with a few different recipes some turn out good and some not so good. One that was very good was a pineapple jalapenos jelly. I also grew bannana peppers and looked for different things to do with them and came up with a bannana pepper mustard that was really good. So I got everything I needed and set up at my first market, we did well that first market and planned to attend the next one the following weekend. That next market I had many repeat customers wanting more of the bannana pepper mustard and the pineapple jalapeno jelly, I mean people were buy 4 or 5 jars at a time, I then knew I had a hit and I quickly sold out!

And from there, the business started to grow, I kept experimenting with different recipes and with my wife’s help, we started to a look for our brand and dress up the look of our products. We eventually ended up being a regular vendor at the Rockwall farmers market, it’s one of the most popular market’s in the DFW area and closer to home, I also decided to enter my mustard and jelly in the canning contest at the State Fair of Texas and was shocked when both entries won 1st place Blue Ribbons. We are starting our 4th year now and besides the Rockwall farmers market, we attend other events around town we also have a website our busiest time is around Christmas as many folks like to give our jellies and jams as presents.

Has it been a smooth road?
The biggest challenge has been trying to keep up I never dreamed that this little business would take off like it has.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
We make and sell homemade jellies and jams, pickles, relishes and mustard. All our products are made in small batches we grow what we can and what we can’t grow we try and source from local farmers. Our products are truly homemade, we hand cut and handpack every jar, there is never any artificial flavors colors used in our recipes. We are very proud of the awards our recipes have won at the State Fair of Texas.

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
Yes in the short time I’ve been doing this, I’ve seen more and more small businesses like mine pop up. More cities around the DFW area are starting Farmers Markets I think more people are wanting to get away from buying from big box stores, they want to know where their food is coming from and want to support small local businesses.

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Image Credit:
Ralph Brunson

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