As I sit at our local watering hole, Valley Growlers sipping a Sticky Hands IPA and munching on some of the house salsa, the sound of laughter echoes from the end of the bar. Several people are gathered around a woman who is filling the conversation with smiles as they sip their drinks. Fast-forward a few minutes and I learn this is the woman who makes the salsa I am eating like a starved competitive eater, Marlena Canton. I would soon find out that Marlena, the purveyor of Marlena’s Salsa, is not only amazingly gifted, but she represents the reason why I love storytelling.
Take away the fact that this long-time banker makes a salsa that brings together fresh local ingredients in her certified home kitchen with a seasoned expertise. Take away the simple fact that every delicious bite is filled with the perfect balance of cilantro, tomato, and heat (and also seems to scream out for a beer). But it’s the reason behind why she began selling it that makes me love it even more.
“My husband convinced me to start selling it as a sort of side business. The money I made helped to pay for our family vacation to Disneyland.”
I mean, why wouldn’t you want to help a mother take her family to the Happiest Place on Earth? Come on.
Armed with years of experience growing up in her family’s Mexican Restaurant, La Casa de Rios, she began making small batches for the local Happy Valley Farmer’s Market. Ever since the first batch ran out and the people clamored for more, she has had to expand into the Gresham Farmer’s Market as well as the beer-haven, Valley Growlers to meet the public’s demand.
Blending up around 250 containers a week of both her mild and spicy offerings, this is more of a labor of love than anything else.
“I love being part of the community, and making salsa offers me the chance to give back. I get to interact with friends and make new ones at the farmer’s markets, while doing something I love.”
With the business gaining a following of grass-root salsa lovers, Marlena is performing the balancing act between a flourishing micro business fueled by passion, and a small business with steady projected growth for the future. When I asked her what her plans were for Marlena’s Salsa she just shrugged and smiled.
“I have no idea what I want to do when I grow up.”
So now the question becomes; Will Marlena up her game, buy that larger refrigerator and quench the salsa thirst of the hungry masses, or will you simply have to get to the farmer’s market early or grab a beer before the stock runs out to get your salsa fix?
For now, we’ll have to let the chips fall where they may.