Five years ago, Jordan’s husband and wife duo Pete and Kelly Holzer teamed up to make a Bloody Mary mix that would capture the hearts and taste buds of Minnesota.
The duo formally incorporated Sideshow Bloody Mary Mix in 2015, and in 2016, they “hit the streets” with their product, Pete Holzer said. They enlisted family members to taste test and help spread the word about the mix, too.
“We got our first batch and were literally knocking on doors of liquor stores to get them to try it,” Holzer recalled. “We were grassroots branding.”
As the couple worked hard to share their product with liquor stores and distributors, they watched Sideshow’s success grow from “mom and pop stores to Hy-Vees,” which solidified the Holzers’ trust in their product.
“We couldn’t have grown unless we had a really good product,” he said. “When you start to build a good brand, word gets around.”
While he doesn’t have his eye on national distribution yet, Holzer is looking forward to re-starting the company’s “cabin shows,” showing Sideshow’s products in cities like Rochester, Duluth, Sioux Falls and Mankato.
“We just want to keep growing our business, expanding our presence in the Twin Cities,” he said.
Contrary to the Midwest’s reputation for not being able to handle culinary heat, Sideshow’s most popular mix − the jalapeño garlic flavor − is also its spiciest. The key is avoiding the type of heat that burns a taster’s lips, Holzer advised.
“It’s got an incredible flavor, and then we call it the ‘slow back burn.’ You taste the flavor, and in about three seconds the heat will build up,” he said. “Is it a Minnesota hot or a Texas hot? I always say, no one’s fallen over yet.”
The company began with three flavors: original, jalapeño garlic and sweet horseradish. This year, Holzers added their first new flavor, a ranch dill pickle mix, after listening to customer feedback. It’s been such a success that Sideshow aims to add one new flavor a year going forward, Holzer said.
“A lot of breweries and a lot of distilleries are in the hot seat to constantly come up with new recipes,” he explained. “There’s so many different varieties, and we all have a different taste palate ... you’ve got to keep up.”
“We always listen to customers, what types of things they like in Bloody Marys,” Holzer said.
The first person to claim to invent the Bloody Mary was a bartender in Paris in 1921, making 2021 the cocktail’s 100th birthday. The savory drink is made with vodka in its classic form, but over the years, drinkers have experimented with different liquors to create a variety of drinks, and a creative list of names to go with them. With bourbon, the drink becomes a Bloody Maryann; with gin, it’s a Red Snapper. A Bloody Pirate is a Bloody Mary mix with rum, while, a Bloody Maria boasts a tequila base.
Holzer has also learned that his customers have used Sideshow’s mix, which is a nonalcoholic mix of tomatoes and spices, in stovetop recipes. People have emailed him to say they used Sideshow in their grandpa’s chili recipe, marinated steaks in it, and made wings with it.
“If it ever calls for tomato sauce, just replace your tomato sauce with Bloody Mary mix,” Holzer said. “You learn from your customers.”
Tanya Velishek is used to helping, both in her career as a nurse practitioner and as the leader of the Jordan Area Food Shelf. So when Scott County approached her about opening a Family Resource Center inside the food shelf, she quickly joined the effort.
The network of Scott County Family Resource Centers (FRC) include locations at the Shakopee Public Library, the YMCA in River Valley, and the Jordan Area Food Shelf, open on Monday, Thursday and Wednesday, respectively. The FRCs opened for a soft launch in August and have been slowly growing their reputation through word-of-mouth and outreach campaigns in the weeks since.
Krystal Boyechko, the Family Resource Center Coordinator, was living in Oregon with her family when she was offered the chance to return to Scott County − where she grew up − and build out the Family Resource Center program. She leapt at the chance, and “it’s great to be home,” she said.
The face-to-face interactions provided by the FRC have been essential to connecting families with assistance they need, both staff members said.
Talking with a trained staff member who’s knowledgeable of Scott County’s available assistance is a vastly different experience than searching a website for a particular program or trying to deduce which menu item to select on an automated phone system. Many people have walked into the FRC seeking one specific resource, like housing assistance, and left with connections to job programs, early childhood education centers, and health programs.
“(When) you talk to the person, is when they get it,” Velishek said. “It’s that impact you make on the person.”
“I think this is the added piece that people need, because they don’t know to ask or are afraid to ask” for help with specific problems, Boyechko added.
Due to the confidential nature of their work, Velishek and Boyechko weren’t able to share detailed stories of the people they’ve helped. However, they recalled one family that stopped by the center looking for help on one of the first evenings it was open. They’d only recently moved to the United States, Boyechko recalled, and the social safety net in their home country was sparse compared to the help families can receive through Scott County. While their children entertained themselves in the FRC’s playroom, the parents talked with staff members at a small kitchen table in the next room, and they were able to connect with several helpful programs, she said.
“They all walked out smiling. We all walked out smiling,” Boyechko recalled.
Most people who use the Jordan Area Food Shelf and the FRC in its halls are residents of Jordan or nearby townships, though the center is open to all Scott County residents. One of the goals is “to bring these resources and supports closer to home for people” who may commute to another county for work and aren’t able to visit nearby resources during business hours, Boyechko added.
The Jordan Area Food Shelf is a well-known resource in the area. It assists the equivalent of around 10% of Jordan’s population as clients every year, according to Velishek, and a broad network of local churches direct its congregants in need to the resources available at the food shelf. That community familiarity has been a boon as the FRC gets up and running.
“There has been a nice level of foot traffic, especially when the food shelf is distributing food,” Boyechko said.
While the FRC is a relatively new resource, the staff who work there are all experienced in the ways they must be nimble and flexible to adapt to community needs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and other external forces.
“I honestly think it’s going to evolve,” Velishek said of the resources offered at the FRC. She has dreams of setting up a flu shot clinic at the FRC, providing COVID-19 vaccines, and expanding the available resources to include older adult populations.
Boyechko sees possibilities in expansion too. The FRC already has plans to offer educational opportunities like parenting classes in the future, and she hopes to expand the center’s hours to be open more frequently. Other similar resource centers have also created parent advisory councils, which would be a valuable resource in guiding the resources that Scott County makes available at its sites, Boyechko added. Working together with sites like the Jordan Area Food Shelf, she’s optimistic.
“There’s certainly great partners at the table,” Boyechko said.