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Berries the fruit of her passion

July 14, 2012
By Garrett Neese ( , The Daily Mining Gazette

CENTENNIAL - Since the 1960s, people have been getting everything from dozens of jam and jelly flavors to baby clothes at Barb's Jams & Jellies.

Owner Barb Perreault came to the Copper Country from her hometown of Fort Worth, Texas, in 1954; her husband, who was born and raised across the street from her current home, wanted to settle back home after getting out of the Air Force.

"He loved to stream fish, and hunt, and you can't do that in Texas," she said.

Article Photos

Daily Mining Gazette/Garrett Neese
Barb Perreault is seen at her shop, Barb’s Favorite’s Jams & Jellies, in Centennial. The shop, which opened in the 1960s, includes 41 varieties of jams and jellies, as well as handmade goods.

She started selling jellies in 1962, starting with wild strawberry and thimbleberry. She sold it through a friend's shop in Delaware before opening her shop outside her home in 1965. She became a licensed jelly maker in 1980, for which she needed a separate kitchen to cook in.

Aside from the peaches, which she gets from lower Michigan, Perreault picks everything else from spots between Copper Harbor and Ripley.

"All my stuff is picked off the island," she said.

Over the past 50 years, she's added a few more varieties. Asked how many she has, Perreault begins counting varieties from the shelf; for the last handful, she has to move to a separate shelf behind the counter. The final tally: 41.

Of those, the top sellers are the thimbleberry ('Michigan Gold," Perreault said), wild strawberry, chokecherry and apple butter. She's still adding more to her repertoire, including jalapeno pepper last year.

"It's not that hot, but it's enough that it's got a little bite to it," she said.

Also in Perreault's shop are a variety of handmade goods, and a number of pieces of woodwork made by her late husband, who died four years ago.

"He used to take me out into the woods where no one was to pick thimbleberries," she said. "Some places I don't know how to get into to this day."

Most of the handmade clothes are housed in an addition to the shop made from an 18-wheel truck found by her husband. They include clothes, stuffed animals, pillows, wall hangings and quilts.

"I don't make anything you can't wash," she said. "I learned that with my kids."

She learned quilting from her grandmother, while she learned how to knit after coming up to the Keweenaw.

"I love my quilting," she said. "And I love to make baby stuff. I always have."

She eschews machines, doing all her sewing by hand. Most of the quilts take two to three months, she said, which lets her relax and listen to her country and western music.

She keeps to a usual routine of doing outside work such as hauling wood in the morning, then doing knitting and crocheting at night.

"I can't sit and do nothing," she said.

She's had visitors from Japan, Singapore, Australia and most of the European countries. People from 37 states have visited in the last year alone - including one from the last state missing.

"It took 44 years to get one person from Hawaii," she said.



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