Making a difference

Jared Niemeyer points out a feature in the still-under-construction commercial kitchen in the new home of Jared’s Jams on the square in Edina. The finished space, including a storefront, expects to open in late August or early September.

EDINA, Mo. — Jared Niemeyer has two words to describe the progress to date on the new home for Jared’s Jams.

“Really great,” he said.

The business launched in 2014 to raise money to support Special Olympics is growing into a storefront site on the square in Edina.

A federally-registered commercial kitchen housed in the building at 106 N. Fourth will produce the homemade jams, jellies, fruit syrups, vanilla extract and specialty coffee blends the 29-year-old with Down syndrome and his parents, Brenda and Dan Niemeyer, have gained a following with at farmers markets and other vendor events.

“We’re building not only for Jared’s Jams to use but other small businesses like Jared’s that could potentially grow from being able to use the kitchen,” Brenda Niemeyer said. “Jared has always wanted to make a difference, to be a change-maker, to make things happen.”

Plans call for the storefront and kitchen to open in late August or early September.

But Jared already can see the finished space — the sinks and counters along one wall, the refrigerator on another wall, the islands, the inventory and shipping space and the large storage area.

“I dream about this building,” Jared said.

“It’s kind of been your dream to do something like this,” Brenda said. “We hope good things can come from here.”

The idea for the business grew out of opportunities in 2014 for Jared to speak at the United Nations about inclusion and attend a White House dinner to talk about the importance of Special Olympics. Back home in Edina, he wanted to find a way to give back to Special Olympics, which was building a Training for Life campus in Jefferson City.

The Niemeyers and their older son Josh already volunteered with Special Olympics, but Jared wanted to do something more. He settled on using fruit raised on the family farm to make and sell jam and donating the profits from Jared’s Jams to Training for Life.

“Special Olympics will always be a significant thing in our lives, both for Jared and our entire family. We’ve all been very blessed by it,” Dan Niemeyer said.

Dan and Brenda coach adult Special Olympics athletes. Jared competes, serves on the board of Special Olympics Missouri and does speaking engagements about how Special Olympics changes lives.

“So many people think it’s a track meet once a year,” Dan Niemeyer said. “Special Olympics Missouri has over 300 events a year. That’s six days a week there’s a Special Olympics event going on somewhere in the state.”

As production grew, the Niemeyers converted Jared’s Jams to a small business, still donating to Special Olympics, but needed a federally-approved kitchen to sell their products online and in stores.

Blackberry and strawberry are top sellers, with peach and raspberry growing in popularity and jalapeno a seasonal favorite. Small batches make three to five pints at a time. “Our goal is to keep it like Grandma used to make,” Dan said.

The Niemeyers recently retired — Brenda from school counseling work in Kirksville and Dan from U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development — and had been looking at the next step for Jared, who also works part-time at Hy-Vee in Kirksville, as well as what they could do to contribute to the community.

When the opportunity came up to buy the building on the square, “God’s timing was very evident to us,” Dan said. “We’ve been looking at options we didn’t really like, then this property came available.”

The 86-year-old building began life as a hatchery and most recently housed an insurance and law office. The Niemeyers, working with David Johnson Remodeling, gutted the building this spring and started from scratch to create a custom space already blessed with scripture, quotes and messages written on the studs by family, friends and tradesmen.

“We touched every inch of this building,” Brenda said.

With shifting production to the new space “we’ll be able to expand what we do, and over time, employ some individuals also,” Brenda said. “As we get closer and closer to true retirement, it’s something Jared may be able to make his living off of.”

It’s also a way to invest in their community.

“It’s very important that you see new business coming into a small town,” Dan said. “Part of the goal in the storefront is it will be a day trip from Quincy or Hannibal, to venture over, hit some antique stores or other things.”

Follow the building progress at Jared’s Jams online at https://www.facebook.com/Jareds-Jams-112525080431484.

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