Visit Bremen businesses during Homespun Holidays to see what’s new and for discounts too
BREMEN — There’s something new being sold at Koontz Hardware — something worth salivating over — and it isn’t the latest in socket wrenches. Kent Koontz explained the line of The Dutch Kettle LLC salsas and sauces is something he likes and not only because of its taste or popularity, but because the foodstuffs are made locally.
“This is a Bremen product made by Bremen people,” he explained. “It’s not just good, but good for the town’s economy.”
For sale at Koontz’ store is a fair variety of the many recipes made by The Dutch Kettle, co-owned by cousins Lyle Bontrager and Brent Slabaugh, including salsas in uncommon flavors like pineapple, cherry, peach and cranberry, and apple butter, sweet baby beets, dill pickle chunks and Ozark Gold applesauce. Other recipes for sale include jams made with cherries, black raspberries, cranberries with raspberries, red raspberries and even hot pepper jam and each jar costs a fair $3.97 each. Koontz said he heard about The Dutch Kettle jams and salsas from his niece Desiree Frederick who works at the store.
“It was a big seller at the Windmill Market,” she explained, “and I knew he had to have it here. People loved it.”
Bontrager said he grew up in southern Indiana but came to Bremen in his teens and that his cousin, who he grew up with, has lived in the Nappanee and Bremen area all his life. He explained how the two got into the homestyle food products business.
“We were both heavily involved in the RV industry and in 2007 that (type of) business started teetering pretty good,” Bontrager said. “We knew it was time to get out of it and I knew the individual that owned The Dutch Kettle business in southern Indiana, and that he wanted to sell.”
At first the new business was a little shaky.
“I was the more skeptical one in the beginning,” Bontrager admitted, “but we jumped in and bought those recipes.”
And the investment paid off well .. and with the only advertising being done by word of mouth.
“With the economy now, it’s tapering off a little,” he said, “but at one point we had to shut some of what we did down because we couldn’t keep up with our customers’ demands.” He said that last year’s freeze affected the business somewhat because of the low numbers of fruits coming in from orchards but that all-said, the company’s been averaging about a 10 percent growth each year.
Adding to the recipes they originally purchased at the request of their customers, The Dutch Kettle currently makes about 20 different varieties of salsas and approximately the same amount of types of jams, but also makes barbecue sauces, and sells pickled products.
“We don’t do the pickling here,” he said, “but everything else is made in Bremen.”
And some of the recipes Bontrager and Slabaugh added are a little out of the ordinary. “The peach salsa is hands-down the biggest seller,” Bontrager said. “It’s very sweet. We also have a cherry jalapeño jam and a peach habanera jam which goes very well with cream cheese and crackers ... but not for bread. If someone tries it with bread they won’t like it. We also produce a corn and pepper salsa and a hot habanera salsa that was in demand from our Chicago and southwestern customers.”
In Elkhart County there are many locations that sell The Dutch Kettle products including the Nappanee Bakery and Dutch Village but in Marshall County, only Mac’s Market in LaPaz and Koontz’ in Bremen sell the line of fresh mixtures. But the name is known nationwide.
“We sell to Branson Missouri and at a lot of Farmers Markets and booths,” he said. “We’re on the west coast. ... in Utah — they cover the west side of the Rockies for us — and we have distributors in New York. We produce it wholesale and our customers put their name on it. We only ask that they put somewhere (in discreet) the company name. … It’s what the industry calls private labeling.”
Nov. 15 through 17 during Bremen’s Homespun Holidays customers at Koontz Hardware can not only find deals on merchandise and giftware but will get a chance to taste some of the recipes which Koontz said, based on popularity and request, he will add to.
During the holiday open house shoppers can find a wide variety of seasonal merchandise like artificial greenery and wreaths, decorative lights and of course, a variety of styles of snow shovels, as well as brand name candles like Candle-lite, Yankee Candle and Mystic Harbor. Look in The Bremen Enquirer for the Homespun Holiday ad for Koontz Hardware to receive 10 percent off total purchase prices on all merchandise and even the most frugal shoppers can find just what they’ve been looking in the further discounted items in the back of the store. Koontz Hardware is open Mondays through Fridays from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Businesses involved in Homespun Holidays deals include H & R Block, Community Hospital of Bremen’s Auxiliary Gift Shop, Bremen United Methodist Church, TMT Automotive, Bourbon Street Pizza (Bourbon), 1st Source Bank, Barry’s Floor Center, The Cozy Home Shop, Kit N’ Kapoodle, Horse Saddle Shop, Jensen Awards, Koontz Hardware, Woodie’s Supermarket, Unicom Satellite, Olde District 5 (Moser’s in Woodland), and Steve Weaver Arts. Those shopping during the three-day event have at winning $50 or $100 in Bremen Bucks.
To learn more about The Dutch Kettle products, visit http://www.thedutchkettle.com  online, or call 574-546-4033.