Barrington entrepreneur takes sauce recipes to store shelves

  • Jessica Grelle, owner of Mama Jess organic sauces.

    Jessica Grelle, owner of Mama Jess organic sauces.

  • Desmond Clark

    Desmond Clark

  • Colette Hands

    Colette Hands

  • David A. Duke

    David A. Duke

  • Michael Ali

    Michael Ali

  • Matt Verde

    Matt Verde

  • Lee Stellakis

    Lee Stellakis

  • Chris Niedhammer

    Chris Niedhammer

Posted8/5/2013 6:07 AM

Mama Jess really is a mom with two sons ... and a food scientist. You don't often hear those titles together, but Jessica Grelle of Barrington has parlayed her favorite organic recipes for her family into a growing food business.

Grelle is the founder and "chief mama" of Mama Jess organic pasta sauces, a new line that can be found in Whole Foods, Mariano's, Sunset Foods and elsewhere. She's also been making the rounds of personal appearances at Whole Foods in Schaumburg, William Sonoma in Oak Brook and other locations to promote the line that includes Bean Good and others. She has plans for more products that could be launched next year, along with more personal appearances and even educational programs.


"My most recent product is Mama Jess' Bien Good Organic Pasta & Enchilada sauce. The idea was simple. As a consumer, I could not find an organic enchilada sauce anywhere, so I made my own," she said.

That's how the line started in March 2011 after encouragement from her husband and family. While she works from her Barrington home, she has the products manufactured at facilities in Michigan and California.

"I had launched new products for other people and now I wanted to do it for myself," she said.

Grelle, who studied nutrition and food science at Penn State University, went on to run a research-and-development lab for a private label food company. She was involved in developing hundreds of food products for companies, including Starbucks, Dunkin' Donuts, Folgers, Procter & Gamble, Annie's and Safeway, she said.

Grelle also appeared on ABC/The Live Well Network's "Let's Dish," and profiled in the November 2012 edition of Martha Stewart's Whole Living magazine.

While striking out on her own was a different experience, she hit the shelves very quickly, she said.

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She attended an industry natural food show, called Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, Calif., and gained immediate attention. Whole Foods Markets and Central Markets in Texas and HEB, Texas, immediately picked up the Mama Jess product line. Later Kroger Co., including Fry's in Arizona and Ralph's in California, launched the line in about 1,000 stores nationwide.

"All the sauces are made with extra vegetables added, because we need to get people to eat more vegetables," she said.

Spoken like a true mom.

Former Bear on board

Former Chicago Bears' Desmond Clark of Vernon Hills is now on the board of directors for Make-A-Wish Illinois chapter. He's also managing partner of MSK88, a medical device sales company he founded in Chicago and developed his own real estate business under the Coldwell Banker umbrella. A former tight end for the Denver Broncos, Miami Dolphins and for nine years with the Chicago Bears. Clark also co-hosts a radio show "Sportsmanlike Conduct" on 1410 AM and has previously served as co-host on ESPN's Bear's Post Game Show.

Helping hand for your workforce

Colette Hands has joined Oakton Community College in Des Plaines as director of workforce development and corporate training and will work with local businesses and industries to develop programs and services. In addition, Hands will oversee the college's program for continuing education for health care professionals.


Energy expert on council

Arlington Heights resident David Wytmar, a licensed architect and partner in Groundwork Ltd. in Buffalo Grove, was appointed by the Capital Development Board to be a member of the Illinois Energy Code Advisory Council. Earlier this year, he was a guest on WTTW's "Chicago Tonight" show, where he discussed the new Illinois energy code regulations that apply to homeowners who are building a new home or remodeling an existing home.


David A. Duke, CEO of Warrenville-based National Express Corp., was named Contractor of the Year by School Bus Fleet during the National School Transportation Association's annual convention in Tulsa, Okla. ... Rick Stiles, president of Elk Grove Village Bank & Trust, said the bank will expand in November with an additional bank at Elk Crossing in Elk Grove Village. The current bank recently moved to Itasca. ... Julie DeGrace has joined the independent living marketing team in a newly created position, community relations and sales liaison for Clare Oaks in Bartlett.

Lisa and Kevin Mertinat of South Elgin, Vince and Kim Paku of South Elgin, Sandi and Alexis Beckmann of St. Charles, Mark and Kim Reuter of Elgin and Ron Haas of Elgin shared a meal with Culver's founder Craig Culver, who visited last week to mark the 10th anniversary of the restaurant in South Elgin.

Danya Proud, the director of U.S. media relations for Oak Brook-based McDonald's Corp., left for Singapore to become the company's director of corporate relations for the Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa region. Replacing Proud is Lisa McComb, who was on McDonald's global external communications team. ... Jeff Benach, co-principal of Lexington Homes, said the company will do 41 townhouses in north Palatine at Lake-Cook Road and Route 12 and 15 townhouses near downtown Palatine. Sales for both communities is expected to begin in mid-August.

Board-certified urologist David A. Guthman will treat patients now at the Busse Center for Specialty Medicine in Arlington Heights, adjacent to Northwest Community Hospital. ... Dermatologist Benjamin Marks, endocrinologist Emily Szmuilowicz, and orthopedics Matthew D. Saltzman and Jason Savage have joined the Glenview Outpatient Center in Glenview. ... Chiropractic doctor Vito Spadafino has joined the staff of Ginsberg Chiropractic in Geneva.

Ben Warriner, vice president of construction for Woodridge-based Morgan/Harbour is the project executive and Scott Staros is the project manager for a new 485,500-square-foot warehouse and distribution facility for CenterPoint Properties in Joliet. ... Michael Ali is the new senior vice president and chief information officer for Grainger in Lake Forest. He replaces Tim Ferrarell, who is now senior vice president of innovation and continuous improvement.

Export-Import Bank President Patricia M. Loui and Democratic U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth of Hoffman Estates were set to meet today 5 in Schaumburg with small- and mid-size business leaders to discuss how to increase foreign sales, extend credit to buyers and obtain protection against the risk of nonpayment. ... Hana Steinke is the new design consultant at Carlson's Flooring in Geneva.

Matt Verde, managing partner of The Capital Grille in Rosemont, has received the Joe R. Lee Diamond Club Award, the company's top honor for managing partners throughout North America who show strong and inspiring leadership while achieving top financial performance. ... Chicago-based Options Clearing Corp. Chairman and CEO Wayne P. Luthringshausen of Kildeer will retire on Dec. 31, when those top two roles will be separated. Michael E. Cahill of Glen Ellyn then will become the new CEO on Jan. 1. The board of directors continues to search for who will fill the chairman position.

Lee Stellakis and Chris Niedhammer have become partners and shareholders of ARCO/Murray National Construction Co. Inc. in Oakbrook Terrace. Stellakis is director of operations for the Build-to-Suit/National Division, and Niedhammer is director of operations for the Interiors Division.

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