Before Mason Jars were primarily used as decorations and drinking glasses, they served a slightly more practical purpose – vessels to preserve and can food. While the original purpose of a Mason Jar may not be as popular as it used to be, the practice is still very much alive and well at Glass Rooster Cannery in Sunbury.
The cannery’s motto is “Bringing simpler things back to life one event at a time” and has been doing so for nearly five years. Founder and Co-Owner Jeannie Seabrook has never been a stranger to the practice. She grew up in a family of 16 kids where canning and self-sufficiency were a lifestyle. When she had five of her own, “That’s how I fed my family,” Seabrook says.
An acquaintance gave her the idea of actually turning it into a business with a community cannery.
“I looked into the concept of a community cannery and realized there’s nothing like that in Ohio,” Seabrook says.
She floated the idea to her sister who had a farm of her own, and was met with the response of “Do it here.” That was in August of 2010. By November 2010 they broke ground and by May of 2011, Glass Rooster Cannery was in business.
There are four facets to Glass Rooster Cannery’s operation.
First is the teaching element. A calendar of classes offers insights on everything from pressure canning and cheese making to baking bread and fermenting foods.
“We have water bath and pressure canning classes throughout year because people want them,” Seabrook says.
Every year the cannery tries to add some additional elements. This year will see the addition of classes on soap and lotion making, gardening and keeping chickens. Cooking classes and private events are also on the main docket.
There is some seasonality to the business. Glass Rooster Cannery runs about two to three classes per week in the slow seasons and up to five per week during peak times. But no matter the time of year, Seabrook’s garden at her own home just a few miles up the road keeps the cannery stocked year-round with produce for the classes, whether fresh or frozen.
The second facet of the business is its namesake.
“We’re a licensed cannery,” Seabrook says.
Glass Rooster Cannery has about 150 products on the shelf at any given time. Much of it is made from the produce in Seabrook’s garden, with the goods often making their way to cooking classes as well. For example, Seabrook says that during a winter pasta making class, they can grab a can of fresh tomatoes or a base pasta sauce made with heirlooms and build flavor from there.
The cannery is also working on expanding partnerships with local farmers to use their aftermarket products. It’s an opportunity for farmers to take a product back to market as a value-add.
The third facet of the business strays from food into arts and antiques. A barn on the property is packed full of eye candy for antiquers.
The fourth facet brings things back to the cannery’s desire to slowly and strategically expand their offerings.
“We plan to host a farmers market twice a month on Wednesday afternoons,” Seabrook says.
She wants to connect local farmers and home growers in the community. They are putting a unique spin on the market as well. Instead of requesting a dollar amount to join, each vendor donates a certain amount of produce, and the cannery will make a to-go fresh dinner product to be sold at the market.
Seabrook has found that the cannery runs the gamut of audiences, from kids camps in the summer, to millennials and senior citizens.
“It’s just a very big array,” she says. “It’s really fun because every class is different.”
And some of that array of audience has made its way to the cannery via Experience Columbus.
Glass Rooster Cannery has been a member since its 2011 launch.
“Experience Columbus is a great organization,” Seabrook says. “They promote Columbus and the outer reaching areas in a manner that I think is honest and makes Columbus an exciting place to be a part of.”
More than building awareness through their website or tourism guide, Experience Columbus has offered a first-time entrepreneur like Seabrook the resources she needs to figure out the market and adjust course based on current trends.
“As a businessperson they have taught me on a very steep learning curve a lot of the things that I need to know, and they are just alway available if I have a question,” Seabrook says.
For more information, visit glassroostercannery.com.