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Seasoned salt spices up new business

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Posted: Wednesday, November 21, 2012 5:48 pm | Updated: 5:49 pm, Wed Nov 21, 2012.

As a teenager in Ohio, Cass Cannon was not always interested in what her mother was cooking. Peg loaded Cannon's lunch boxes down with heavy roasts and other hearty fare that occasionally ended up in the trash.

"I was all about alfalfa sprouts and yogurt and she'd give me hot pork and carrots," Cannon recalled. "I'd be like 'Mom, this is way too much,' and that was like a knife to her heart because food was her expression of love."

Now, 15 years after Peg's passing, Cannon will be the first to say that mother knew best. In fact, she's willing to stake her name and livelihood on it.

Last month, she slashed her hours working as a community relations specialist for Charlottesville City Schools to launch Peg's Salt, a blend of kosher salt and fresh herbs that her mother developed 40 years ago.

The move came as a surprise the veteran marketer, who was always more comfortable telling stories than she was wearing an apron.

"I was never that mom making the hot lunches or anything, because I was working," she said.

Still, after Peg's passing, Cannon found time to pick up where her mother left off, occasionally recreating that extra touch of love made manifest on countless Corn Belt spreads.

"I'm lucky I got the recipe at all because every time I'd ask, Mom would tell me, 'Oh, you know, it's a bit of this and that,' and wouldn't write it down," she said. "I had to bug her about that quite a bit, and I'm just so grateful that I did."

She would ship the mix to friends and family members and joke about how one day she'd turn Peg's salt into a business.

That day came last February, when she decided to form the limited liability company that would allow her to bring Peg into kitchens across the country and around the world - she has already filled orders for customers in Texas and Taiwan.

The transition from a career spent telling other people's stories to sharing her own seems more intuitive in retrospect, Cannon said.

She wanted to align her lifestyle with her business philosophy: The workplace should feel like family.

"We seem to be locked in this arms race where people are like, 'I work 50 hours,' 'Well, I work 60 hours,' and there's just no time for anything else," she said. "Life is too short."

Following her bliss has come with its share of challenges. Food safety regulations, tax law and bookkeeping are not in the former English major's wheelhouse. But Cannon is no shrinking violet, and she has muscled her way through the bureaucratic hurdles that might dissuade other would-be entrepreneurs.

She is the first person to point out that she hasn't done it alone and that she's not there yet.

Cannon has mined a rich base of support built up since her arrival from New York in 1991 to help get Peg's up and running.

"I'm having fun, I truly am, and people have been so kind and encouraging," she said.

The homey design on Peg's bags and jars comes from local graphic artist Mike Uriss. David Tewksbury played a launch party at the home Cannon and her husband share in Greenwood, and she's enlisted the help of her grown son and daughter whenever she can get her hands on them.

She is cranking out the mix from a friend's commercial kitchen, although she plans to operate out of her basement when the business grows.

So far, she said, things are looking up.

Peg's Salt is on the shelves at Greenwood Gourmet Grocery and Anderson's Carriage Food House, and units have been moving through pegssalt.com. The mix also is being delivered to homes across the region through distributor Relay Foods.

"I see this being sold side by side with Old Bay seasoning one day," Cannon said. "I know that sounds like crazy talk, but why not? It's good."

When asked how she felt about her nascent progress, Cannon said she was grateful to her mother and father for providing her with the tools to author her own success story.

"I wish I could have a 30-minute pipeline to heaven to tell them about all of this," she said. "I think they'd get a kick out of it."

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Power Thought

You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try. –Beverly Sills

You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try. –Beverly Sills

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