Richard and Stephanie Hughes
Richard and Stephanie Hughes know how to jam, and even more so, to marmalade. The couple own and run Hughes House of Marmalade, and sell their creations—marmalades, jams, pastries and waffles—at farmers’ markets in Chico, Oroville and Paradise. It all began during a visit to England, Richard’s home country, 10 years ago. His sister had discovered a box belonging to their great-grandmother containing several recipes for marmalade. Richard said he was immediately inspired and after nearly two dozen tries, was able to re-create his great-grandmother’s preserves. The business officially launched in June 2015 in Yuba City after Stephanie (pictured) suggested Richard try to sell his creations. They’ve since expanded their menu with four times as many jams and marmalades. They also added pastries based on recipes found in the same box, as well as Belgian waffles. Visit www.hugheshouseofmarmalade.com for more info.
How have you adapted to customers’ tastes?
Richard: As we went through the season [at the Yuba City market], people were saying, “Do you do a spicy marmalade?” I’d never heard of such a thing. “Well, you should—Californians love spicies!” OK, so we did some spicies; that took off. [They asked], “Do you do a strawberry one?” No. “Well, you should.” So now we are up to 14 different marmalades and 10 different jams.
Stephanie: We just keep adding more things. My very first occupation, I was a pastry chef, and I owned a restaurant for 20 years. We started adding on baked goods. Most of it is from his great-grandma’s cookbook. They are very British and pretty much everything we do is very British.
Stephanie seems to be the optimist between you two. Does that keep you going?
Richard: Sometimes I get kinda despondent about [the business]. But she’ll say, “We’ve only been doing it just over a year. Don’t get down.”
Richard, you’re from England and Stephanie is from the U.S.—how did you two meet?
Richard: We started off just as pen pals. Both of us had had messy divorces. I didn’t want anything to do with women; she didn’t want anything to do with men. But we needed to talk to someone. Write an old-fashioned letter! After about three years, she said she was getting wanderlust: “Do you mind if I come over for Christmas?” I said, “That’d be cool to see you.” She came in December, we got married in May. That was 16 years ago.
Unrelated to marmalade, but how do you feel about Brexit?
Richard: Honestly, I don’t think they should have [joined the EU] in the first place … We went back [to England] years ago. I don’t recognize it. All the countryside is gone; what I used to know as sleepy market towns are concrete jungles. One town is morphed into another … it’s the open border that has killed it. You don’t need a passport to get in.