How does an ordinary woman from an ordinary community turn a family tradition into a successful business?  Sheer hard work and a true love for what she is doing.  The ordinary woman is Evelyn McGlothlin and her business is Ordinary Evelyn’s “not so ordinary” homemade goodness.  Evelyn makes many of her products, one batch at a time, on an ordinary kitchen stove in her home based business located in rural Clay County, West Virginia.

Evelyn started her business in 1996 by selling her products at fairs and festivals.  The idea to start a business had been tossed around for several years.  Evelyn’s family had continually witnessed neighbors and friends asking for her Hot Pepper Butter.  Evelyn’s daughter’s who both live out of state, had many times given her mother’s products as gifts to friends.  The recipients were thrilled and wanted to know how they could get more.  Evelyn’s daughter, Christina Boggs, told her mother “you have to start selling your products".   In the summer of 1996, Christina called the WV department of agriculture to gather information about home based canning businesses.  After several phone calls and lots of support from the Department of Agriculture’s staff member Teresa Halloran, Evelyn launched her first showcase at the Clay County Golden Delicious Apple Festival.  Complete with homemade computer labels on the jars and a hand drawn sign bearing the business name, she sold her products to the festival goers.

Even though the business didn’t officially start until 1996, one could say Evelyn started “training” for her business in the 1950’s.  As a youngster she learned the art and skill of food preservation from her late mother, Alta Brady.  In the 1940’s and 1950’s, Alta canned food for her husband and five children.  Alta too had learned these skills from her mother.  Canning food was not a hobby; it was a necessity, a way of life, a family tradition. 

When Evelyn was a teenager, her chores included helping her mother with canning and preserving food for the winter.  Even as a teenager, Evelyn didn’t view this duty as a chore, she enjoyed it.  After marrying and having six children of her own, Evelyn continued the family tradition of preserving food.  When all six children lived at home, the typical stock of canned goods to supply the family for the winter consisted of :  100 quarts of green beans, 50 quarts of tomato juice, 80 quarts of wild blackberries, 1 churn of sauerkraut, 1 churn of pickled corn, 60 quarts of apples, 40 quarts of peaches, 65 quarts of dill pickles, 20 quarts of sweet pickles, 48 pints of apple butter, 48 pints of various jams and jellies, 36 quarts of pork, 12 pints of corn relish, 24 pints of squirrel, and 36 quarts of pickled beets.  After Evelyn’s six children were grown and moved out, she continued to preserve the foods, but in smaller quantities.  This gave her time to experiment with what has now grown into her line of “not so ordinary” products.

Evelyn is committed to continuing to produce a quality product made one batch at a time.  With her family’s help, she grows her own banana peppers, rhubarb, green beans and dill.  Her family has tried to convince her to use frozen green beans and canned peppers to make her Dilled Green Beans and Hot Pepper Butter, but Evelyn refuses.  She says, “it just doesn’t taste right”.  For those readers who have never picked and cleaned peppers and beans, you can’t fully appreciate the effort put into growing, maintaining, harvesting, cleaning and preparing the final products.  Evelyn states she has noticed a trend of certain family members staying away during harvest time.  In addition to growing produce, Evelyn also tries to use what Mother Nature produces; she uses wild crabapples, wild grapes, wild black cherries, wild blackberries, wild raspberries and wild elderberries.  Evelyn states she usually has to hire someone to harvest the wild products, “if you think it is hard to convince your children to pick green beans, just try getting them to go into a briar patch in 90 degree temperatures and pick wild blackberries”.

While Evelyn may consider herself “ordinary” in the sense of the house she lives in, the car she drives, or the clothes she wears; anyone who knows her will testify she is anything but ordinary.  She has enriched the lives of numerous children and adults with her “not so ordinary” levels of energy, patience, perseverance, trust, family values and faith.  How many people can start a business at the age of 55 while also working full time, being a wife, mother, duaghter, grandmother and friend?

Evelyn attributes her success to the help of all of her family members; her family has participated in all aspects of the business.  Her daughter-in-law, Jamie McGlothlin, helped add a line of quick and easy cheese ball and dip mixes.  Jamie also helped take the business on the road to craft shows and festivals.  As the business grows, Evelyn is continuing to turn over the non cooking related duties to her family.  You won’t find any mango marmalades or kiwi salsa; Evelyn sticks to her culture and heritage.  Rhubarb, wild berries, beans, etc.

If you are brave and adventurous, you can visit Evelyn at her home in Clay County.  Finding her house at the end of a 1 mile dirt road will be the adventure; making it out without having to pick berries or clean hot peppers will be the bravery.