click to enlarge Andy Waller, owner and manager of Dayum This Is My Jam.

Scott Elmquist

Andy Waller, owner and manager of Dayum This Is My Jam.

Monday, July 18, 2022

Jamming for Joy

Dayum This is My Jam is producing pickles and preserves with pride.

Posted By on Mon, Jul 18, 2022 at 4:00 AM

Andy Waller hated their job. Beset with boredom and in search of a creative outlet, in 2015 they turned to an equally tuned-out best friend for help. After she pulled out her great-grandmother’s hand-stitched downhome country cookbook to give Waller a lesson in pickling and preserves, they were hooked. The duo’s love of puns and music quickly led them to a name for their fresh born jam brand: Dayum This is My Jam.

Seven years later, Waller manages the business as the sole owner, but they still name every new flavor with a pun based off of a musical reference. Dayum This is My Jam has come a long way since that first flat of blackberries Waller transformed into a couple dozen jars of jam.

The kitschy fabric over the top, tied down with burlap string, has been replaced by labels printed with the official firm logo. With two employees managing the company’s production and events, Dayum This is My Jam finally feels like a full-fledged business even if Waller is not full-time yet.

Pre-pandemic Waller viewed jam-making as little more than a hobby job, but when COVID hit they faced a fork in the road: give up the dream of turning preserves and pickles into a career, or double down on the business and see what’s possible. They chose to keep fighting.

“Over the last two years, I have put so much more effort into growing this business because now my wife and I have two kids and I'm the sole breadwinner,” Waller explains. “I’ve ached to make this my full-time because I’m so immersed in the small business food scene and I feel a lot safer in my work with the community as a trans[gender] non-binary person.”

The pandemic caused a huge drop in sales as most Dayum This is My Jam sales happened at in-person events like farmers’ markets, pop-ups, and festivals. “Back then I didn't have my stuff in stores, and my main way to earn money was through events which came to a total stop,” says Waller.

Sales quickly shifted online, however, as Waller and their team devised a way to do local delivery. Several shops around town host a jam shelf where Dayum This is My Jam products are available to buy including Stir Crazy Café, the Smoky Mug, and Morr Donuts in Mechanicsville. An additional ten stores in Central Virginia stock a variety of pickles and preserves for purchase.

To celebrate seven years of business, Dayum This is My Jam is teaming up with Stir Crazy and Morr Donuts on July 19 for a “jamiversary” party featuring two new products: pancake and waffle mix and a strawberry fruit syrup to douse them in.

Such events are second nature to Waller as the creator of both the Lakeside Local Makers Market and Safe Space RVA, a pop-up makers’ market that showcases Black- and queer-owned businesses without brick-and-mortars. Their heart for a cause also led them to begin regular fundraisers for the RVA Community Fridges, donating the proceeds and a jar of jam to the fridges for each item sold.

At first, the thought of being so open about their beliefs and identity was terrifying. But the community support and record sales Waller has witnessed since then have proven such fears to be unfounded.

“Being openly trans isn’t a death sentence to your business,” Waller says. “Humanizing trans people has been good for me and my business. I think people appreciate that I am open, candid, and working hard to let folks know that nonbinary people exist and always have. If folks don’t support that, then they can just buy other jams and pickles.”

The price of such prejudice would be missing out on some mesmerizing marmalades and palette piquing pickles. Waller tries to source all ingredients as local as possible, a feat made far easier thanks to Dayum This is My Jam running operations out of the Lakeside Local Makers Market’s commercial kitchen. Many of the herbs Waller grows themself.

Ironically for a jam company, the top selling item is the Psycho Diller pickle spears, which pay homage to a song by the Talking Heads. Packing a punch of tang and garlic, Waller says “they do not shortchange you on flavor” although they aren’t spicy spears the way some customers fear.

Those looking for a taste of the holidays all year round should try the Feast of Bourbon, a cranberry compote perfect on everything from fresh waffles to a turkey sandwich. The Hot for Peaches preserves features a jalapeño kick which pairs nicely with crackers and cream cheese. The Whiskey Golden Pear Surprise also offers a nuanced set of flavors without being overly sweet.

Perhaps Waller’s favorite flavor is the newly added Transgender Dysphoria Bluesberry, a blueberry citrus blend dedicated to their own journey to feeling comfortable in their body. This variety was the winner of a six month, LGBTQ-themed flavor competition that also included assortments such as Glitterbomb, An Elderlastin Love, and Born This Gay with a Splash of Rosé. With their own gender-affirming (and medically-necessary) hysterectomy on the horizon, Waller relishes any opportunity to talk about the queer and trans experience in a fun way.

Once the surgery and recovery are complete, Waller hopes to scale up Dayum This is My Jam’s production even further beyond the roughly 400 jars they currently sell each month. As a proselytizer for preserves, they want Richmonders to think beyond toast when reaching for a jar of jam.

“Jams are more versatile than people think,” Waller explains. “I would like to do a cookbook eventually to show folks how to turn a strawberry jam into a salsa, a vinaigrette or a cocktail, for example. There’s so much more you can do with jam.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the name of the Lakeside Local Makers Market.

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