A chance sampling of a particularly tasty cinnamon glazed pecan was a game changer for Sarnia’s Miranda Sheppard.
“I tasted these delicious nuts for the first time 10 years ago in a shop in Tennessee. That place has been my favourite ever since,” says Sheppard.
Back home, she put her chef’s skills to work figuring out how to make her own glazed pecans. Naturally, that led to concocting more flavours.
When life with a new baby made working for others tricky a year ago, she started selling roasted pecans, cashews, walnuts and almonds at local bazaars. That has swiftly evolved into her own store, The Nut Bar, where Sheppard began dishing up nutty treats last week.
“All of my nuts are original recipes that you can’t buy anywhere else,” said Sheppard. “I have a passion and a flare for food.”
She is a Lambton College culinary grad, earned her Red Seal designation and worked in area restaurants and long-term care facilities for years.
In 2016, Sheppard, 40, spent the season as a cook with a Great Lakes shipping company aboard the Saginaw.
But that was no longer practical when her baby daughter came along.
So Sheppard took a long hard look at pursuing her own business venture. Following success at local bazaars, she became a regular at the Pinery Antique flea market, then started manning a booth at the Sarnia Farmers’ Market and a concession at special events this summer.
“Artwalk was my first event with the concession trailer and I sold 500 bags of nuts,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it.”
She stopped cooking nuts at home and invested in German roasters that she uses at her new store, which opened Sept. 29.
“The business has grown very quickly but I have so much faith in it,” she said. “So many people tell me it will work. They love my nuts.”
The Nut Bar is inside the main entrance of Canadian Tire at Lambton Mall. Ten varieties are featured including the very popular butter toffee cashews, cocoa almonds, sweet and spicy cashews and maple glazed walnuts. The smell that wafts out the door is a great way to advertise, Sheppard said with a smile.
Chocolate and yogurt-covered almonds are also for sale, as well as party platters and larger volumes at wholesale prices for wedding nut bars and favours.
Sheppard uses organic coconut sugar, Himalayan salt, organic cane sugar, local honey and Canadian maple syrup to make her seasoned nuts.
A 4 oz. grab bag of warm nuts costs $7; two bags are $13 and three bags are $18. Nuts served up in gift bags start at $6 each. A 1.5-pound party platter sells for $35 while three pounds is $70.
Her newest nutty treat is glazed pecans with candied bacon and she hopes to offer gluten-free choices soon.
She hopes a new vendor concept every Friday, Saturday and Sunday draws more traffic.
“It’s something new for Sarnia to have a group selling sinful delights at a market like this,” Sheppard explained.
For a nominal fee, she rents vendor space in her nut shop with an eye to moving more of her own product. Local people are selling everything from healing jewelry and Mennonite maple syrup to baked goods, garlic spreads and candles.
The Nut Bar at Lambton Mall is open Wednesday to Sunday and Saturdays at Sarnia Farmer’s Market.
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