Nicole Paterson began making strawberry jam with her grandmother before she was tall enough to reach the stove. She credits that childhood experience with sparking her interest in food culture — a passion that led her to a new career.
Even today, crafting preserves is about family for the Ellicott City resident, whose newly formed company, Neat Nick Preserves, allows her to work at home while caring for her 2-year-old daughter, Harper.
“If [a recipe] passes the toddler test, I know other people will like it,” she says.
Aided by a loan from the Howard County Economic Development Authority, Neat Nick Preserves “took off pretty quickly” last fall, says Paterson, a museum professional with a master’s degree in historical studies.
“In the beginning, I was making a few batches a day. Now we make about 500 jars a day to keep up with orders,” she says.
Neat Nick Preserves appeared first at the Rooster and Hen, a general store in Catonsville. Another wholesale customer, Breezy Willow Country Market in Ellicott City, steered Paterson to a small commercial kitchen that creates her signature recipes by hand under the Neat Nick label.
“It’s a great stepping stone for me from doing it in my kitchen to developing my business as a larger presence in the community,” she says.
More than three dozen varieties of Paterson’s sweet and savory jams, jellies and butters — carried by specialty shops in Baltimore, Ellicott City, Catonsville, Annapolis and Washington — are showing up online and at local festivals. Products range from classics, like brown sugar apple butter and Amish Christmas jam, to creative concoctions like honey and bourbon pear jam.
An 8-ounce jar of Neat Nick Preserves sells for $7 at The Little French Market in historic Ellicott City, where a sourdough sandwich made with Neat Nick cranberry jam and braised turkey breast is the café’s bestseller. Paterson designs custom spreads for new menu items.
John Beck, owner of Rescue Woodworks in North Laurel, says he discovered Neat Nick’s brown sugar and strawberry cherry jams on a display at The Little French Market; he and his family love them.
Beck relates to Neat Nick Preserves as a small business owner “trying to make it a go,” and says the two companies are exploring opportunities to collaborate. (Neat Nick is already collaborating with Columbia’s Lost Ark Distilling, using the distillery’s spiced rum in its hot toddy apple butter.)
Eyes toward the future, Paterson says she is looking into crafting her artisan recipes at a community kitchen in Clarksville Commons, a town center under development in Clarksville.
“I love to cook and I love that people are getting enjoyment from something that I’m creating,” Paterson says. “It’s nice to be that happy moment in someone’s day.”
Neat Nick’s Preserves can be found in Ellicott City’s Little French Market and Breezy Willow Country Market, as well as other shops in Maryland and Washington, D.C. Visit neatnickpreserves.com.