If you happen to walk by Jim Casteel as he’s preparing his salsas, it might look more like something out of a Breaking Bad scene: a man with a face mask, goggles, and gloves stirring a large pot of fuming liquid. The peppers that Jim uses in his spiciest salsas – the hottest one named “No Mercy” – are so brutal that he has to protect himself from the fiery fumes.
Jim also makes mild salsas for those of us who can’t handle the flames. In fact he produces eight different kinds of salsa ranging in spice levels: Devil’s Brew, Reaper Creeper, Hell’s Fury, No Mercy, Sissy Lala, Green Goblin, Mango Tango, and Prairie Fire. Based on the names, you might think Jim’s business was somehow connected to an outlaw motorcycle club.
That’s not the case, but Jim in fact does come from an intense motorcycling background, including a history of several life-threatening crashes. They’re all part of the journey that has led him to start his business, Not Your Momma’s Salsas. Though his last accident was in a vehicle and not on a motorcycle, it caused excruciating injuries that prevented him from returning to his work in the construction industry.
When Jim asked his friend how he would continue to make a living, he suggested that Jim try selling his salsas. At that point he was already making plenty of jars for friends.
Jim took his friend’s advice and since then, Not Your Mama’s Salsas has taken off. Jim now makes a full-time income from his business and produces 1000 jars of salsa per week during the summer, all of which he sells. He even ships to out-of-state customers who once tried his salsa at a farmers’ market while passing through Casper during the summer. You know it’s good when people request it from hundreds of miles away.
Jim has achieved an admirable level of success by selling at WFFTP’s markets and at other events in the community, but he’s ready to take his business to the next level. With the help of the Good Food Hub, he plans to utilize the commercial kitchen, sell at the hub’s Marketplace, to restaurants and grocery stores in the Casper community, and to businesses in other towns around the state. A store in Saratoga is already making plans to sell Jim’s salsa once he has access to the hub’s commercial kitchen. The hub will also help Jim to label and pack his finished product to sell to businesses.
Jim’s story is one that represents both the impact a community can make in the life of a local entrepreneur as well as the difference the entrepreneur can make in the community. Casperites have demonstrated their desire to support their own through Jim’s ability to turn a hobby and talent into a marketable product, and in turn he contributes to a community with increasing access to locally made goods. I hope you get your hands on your own jar of salsa soon, and if you happen to see Jim in his Breaking Bad attire – beware.