By Jim Ritch —
Jamie and Kristin Willis, serial entrepreneurs who created the Machipongo Trading Company and Eastern Shore Coffee Roasters, will restart their peanut roasting operation Saturday at Pearl Market.
From 9 a.m. to noon, they will roast 15-pound batches of jumbo Virginia peanuts in a “popper,” a rotating drum that passes the nuts through a propane flame bed.
“We are transitioning a Virginia agricultural product into a superfood,” said Kristin Willlis.
Fresh roasted peanuts — and these may still be warm when sold — contain bountiful polyphenols, vitamins, and other nutrients.
For that reason, and because she and Jamie consider themselves artisan roasters and not wholesalers, they will limit their product line to one item: Plain, freshly roasted peanuts made from the largest grade of Virginia peanuts.
They will not salt the peanuts.
Salting began in an attempt to extend shelf-life, which they don’t need to do, she said.
Customers who wish to season their peanuts will be able to purchase salt made by the Cheriton-based Barrier Island Salt Company, a marketing partnership that typifies the Willis’ style of “cooperative marketing.”
Kristin Willis said she and Jamie “are all about showcasing” the uniqueness of the products made on the Eastern Shore.
Kristin and Jamie, who started roasting coffee in 2006, were approached a year later by a couple who had retired to the Shore and who roasted peanuts and sold them on Saturdays at a flea market in Temperanceville.
The Willises purchased the couple’s company and roasting equipment. They sold peanuts for a couple of years at the flea market, building a local following.
They stopped because of the demands of building their other businesses and raising a family but continued to roast and sell at annual fundraisers of the Barrier Islands Center and Eastern Shore Land Trust.
“There are a lot of locals who know that since 2007 we have done peanuts,” she said.
This time, the Willises are opening under a new legal entity, “We’re Shore Nuts LLC,” and operating at a completely separate location from their coffee roasting. They created the legal protections because of the chance of customers having peanut allergies.
The new company will operate out of the same green truck that the Willises used in 2007. The truck, which no longer runs, had to be specially towed to Pearl Market, where it rests semipermanently.
Next, the Willises want to enjoy the fun of handing out their peanuts.
“Jamie and I aren’t money people. The part that we like is roasting on-site and handing peanuts over to people who are going to eat them,” said Kristin Willis.