SHERIDAN — Jessica Garrelts’ love of food and desire to connect with people through a carefully crafted meal began as a child in her Italian grandmother’s kitchen. This passion continued to grow while working at The Cottonwood Shop, a local kitchen and home store, while home during college breaks.
Jessica and her husband, Jeff, purchased The Cottonwood Shop in 2011, with Jessica managing it full time and turning it into a staple for locals and a must-see for visitors.
When the store outgrew its space, the Garrelts took over the former JCPenney building in 2017 and painstakingly restored and renovated the building, bringing back its former beauty while adding modern touches, including a full commercial kitchen for cooking classes and community events.
“Being a local and also having studied interior design in strong collaboration with architects and historic preservationists, something I am most proud of is giving that so very special landmark building the TLC it so desperately needed,” Jessica Garrelts said. “As much of the work and materials as possible were provided by other local businesses, which is another important focus for us. And of course, it doesn’t get more local than pouring so much of your own blood, sweat and tears into it, and we did just that.”
The new Cottonwood Kitchen + Home opened in September 2018.
Business success, service and giving back to the community are all intertwined for Garrelts.
“How I serve my community is through my heart,” Garrelts said. “I often joke that I’m not your stereotypical business person as I probably check on the contentment of my co-workers, the extent of the experiences we are creating and the quality of impact we are making more than I check my sales.”
Garrelts is thrilled that the teaching kitchen has evolved into a collaborative space where she and the Cottonwood staff are able to connect and help showcase so many other local businesses.
“Having a business in downtown Sheridan offers me a very direct way to give back to the place that has given so much to me,” Garrelts said. “I think too often we measure success by financial or material contributions when truly it can be as simple as just committing to making sure every person that walks through your doors leaves with a bigger smile than when they came in.”
Cottonwood is a longtime Chamber member and a Gold Community Partner since 2017. Garrelts is a member of the Chamber’s Board of Directors and contributes to the Chamber’s annual fundraiser and donates time to the Downtown Sheridan Association.
“Sometimes the endless hours of work a small business owner puts in is trying; it often takes guts but rarely is done for the glory,” Garrelts said. “I’ve come to realize that what we are doing here is so much more than just selling ‘stuff.’ What we are selling are experiences, reasons to give, to create and to share our love and our lives. Selling you a Marcato Hand Crank Pasta Machine…now, it’s not about the margins, it’s about the memories and it feels so good.
“I am transported back to my grandmother’s kitchen, helping her to transform her handmade pasta dough into silky strands of fresh noodles just as I do now, some 25 years later with that very same machine. Being able to provide quality products that will be passed down from generation to generation along with all the love that goes with them, that to me is an accomplishment.”
This award honors a Chamber member business person who shows outstanding business acumen and strong leadership in business and community efforts. This person is a champion for economic development, constantly strives to exceed customer expectations, delivers industry leading standards of service and quality and exhibits innovation in business development.