Rhandy Jannusch

Rhandy Jannusch has a pioneer spirit and she never gives up, two traits that every entrepreneur needs. She also has a knack for making tasty salads.

The 58-year old longtime Ashland resident has owned and operated a variety of businesses since she age 18. Now, she runs a tiny downtown catering business that is flourishing in spite of the recession.

Jannusch credits part of her success to her tenacious attitude and part to the good fun she has in the kitchen. She spoke with the Daily Tidings about the joys and challenges of owning a small business.

DT: How long have you lived in Ashland?

RJ: Since 1970, so about 40 years. There's no place like Ashland, it's a great place to raise a family and a great place to live.

DT: What brought you here?

RJ: I moved here from southern California. I grew up in Orange County and then the Mojave Desert for a while. I just wanted to venture out. I was about 18 and with some friends, another couple, and we just decided to take a chance and get out of the city, get into a more natural way of life. We came out to Ashland and started the first health food store here in Ashland. It was called Friends of the Earth. It was a store and restaurant. I made soups, avocado sandwiches and soy burgers. I had a real popular soy burger recipe. It was all vegetarian.

DT: Talk about your move from the health food store to a catering business.

RJ: My transition went from the health food store to a vintage clothing store on the plaza. We called it Birds of a Feather. I was one of 7 women who owned the store. It was in the late 70s and early 80s. We supplied clothing to the Shakespeare festival and to the general public. Then I had an interior-decorating business. The creativity aspect kind of led me back to wanting to cook, to being inspired by recipes. During a trip to Atlanta, at the airport I noticed a glass front refrigerator with all these stacked Caesar salads. I thought what a great idea. Then I thought Ashland needs a salad-to-go business. I remember when I owned businesses and how hard it was to get out in the summer to get food. My friend Jonathan, who owns the Bards Inn, let my former partner and me work out of his kitchen, and we started delivering salads to the downtown merchants. We've since moved to 119 A street. You can go in and order, but most people just order food from us and we deliver it.

DT: Have you always owned or co-owned your own business?

RJ: Pretty much. I did work for a couple of years at Ross Dress for Less, but that was hard. I liked owning my own business.

DT: When did you start Ashland Gourmet?

RJ: I started it about 5 years ago.

DT: Do you have a signature or special dish?

RJ: I was given an exclusive old-world recipe for a hot curry apple chutney. I make a chicken salad with it, chicken chutney salad, and it has become a real favorite with our regulars. We do a curry chicken salad as well. And people love my clam chowder. We always try to come up with unusual recipes. We just play in the kitchen and try different things.

DT: Have you ever made something that didn't turn out well?

RJ: Not really. I'm very rebellious with recipes. My father was a chef and I used to watch him in the kitchen. I look at a recipe, but I don't measure anything, I just use a pinch of this and a dash of that. I just have fun with it.

DT: What's your favorite thing about catering?

RJ: My favorite things are working on my own time and the feedback I get. People like my food and I like that. I have regular clients here and in Medford, and they are requesting me. When they have a lunch they request me and that feels really good.

DT: Where can people get your food?

RJ: Our salads and sandwiches are sold at Shop-n-Kart, the Roasting Company, 7-11, the Ashland Shell station. We've diversified over the years. We even make our own cheese kaiser rolls.

DT: Any tips for someone who want to start a catering business?

RJ: The food business is very tough. There's a lot of planning involved. I'd say plan a lot and work with good people. I have a wonderful helper, her name is Angie Bates.

DT: Talk about something challenging for you.

RJ: Being able to get away from the business is actually a challenge. When you own your own business it is hard to step away, you are always working in some way.

DT: Tell us about your family.

RJ: I have a fabulous, wonderful family. Our son Luke has been an honor-roll student since he was a kid. He grew up playing the cello, played sports at Ashland High, and is now going to OIT, Oregon Institute of Technology in Klamath Falls. He's also playing baseball for them. He just got his first grades, all A's. We are so proud of him. My husband Steve, is a wonderful, loving person. We've been married since 1984.

DT: How did you meet your husband?

RJ: We met when I was with Birds of a Feather, which was across from Nimbus. He was doing some construction work on Nimbus. I started parking my car in front of Nimbus and walking to work from there. We just kind of had a visual on each other and eventually he came up to my truck and introduced himself. He was really cute.

DT: Talk about someone you admire.

RJ: I'm very proud of a dear friend. She and I were pregnant at the same time, our sons played together when they were little. She lost her son when he was 12-years old to a brain tumor. I can't imagine losing my son. She has just come out of it with a blossoming attitude. She is an incredible example to me; she is a remarkable person.

DT: Tell us something about yourself that makes you proud.

RJ: I'm a survivor. I've battled cancer 3 times and won. I am not giving up. I never give up.

For more information about Ashland Gourmet or to see Jannusch's menu visit http://ashlandgourmet.com.

Angela Howe-Decker is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Contact her at decker4@gmail.com.

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