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Sprelly — Not Your Grandmother’s PB&J!

Adrian Silversmith wants his PB&J sandwiches to be to Sprelly what coffee is to Starbucks, what chicken is to Popeye’s, what burgers are to Five Guys. Wait! Are you kidding me? Peanut butter? Jelly? Yup, that’s the stuff. But it’s not like any PB&J you ever took to school in your lunch box.

So let’s back up a minute!
When you go to a frozen yogurt shop and order peanut butter frozen yogurt, you might think, “yum,” or “smooth,” or even “interesting.” But do you think, “Ah ha! There’s another business here!” If you are Adrian Silversmith, that’s exactly what you think. As he stood in a long line in a frozen yogurt shop and tried the peanut butter-flavored yogurt with his two young daughters, he wondered, “Why can’t you make flavored peanut butters? And why can’t you make sandwiches or crêpes using flavored peanut butters?”

At that moment in 2013…
…the idea of Sprelly was born. At the time, Silversmith worked at the Fredericksburg Expo and Conference Center as a sales manager for an events promoter. He and his wife Casey had moved to Fredericksburg in 2005 for jobs with the Expo Center. But in their spare time, they often dreamed of, and even tried, several new business opportunities. A graduate of Lehigh University with a BA in theater and communications, Silversmith had almost failed out in his early college years when he took courses in business. “Everything I failed in college is now my reality!” he laughed.

So what is that reality?
It’s all about peanut butter spreads and jellies: SPR for spread and ELLY for jelly = Sprelly! The idea and name grew legs just days after the yogurt shop visit when Silversmith was laid off from his Expo job. For this entrepreneur-at-heart, it turned out to be an opportunity waiting to happen. A friend mentioned a local, first-time business competition modeled after Shark Tank. Silversmith threw his hat into the ring and became an on-stage finalist, pitching his peanut butter idea. The grand prize winner earned $10,000. Silversmith didn’t win.

But he became a crowd favorite…
…winning the “People’s Choice” award and $500. One of the judges saw the merit in Silversmith’s idea and invited him to another local business competition, “Start-Up Weekend,” which took place three months later. During an intense, 54-hour weekend in early 2014, Silversmith formed a team, framed a social media plan, developed sandwich concepts — all using peanut butter spreads — and set up food tastings in front of the likes of Joy Crump, executive chef of Fredericksburg’s Foode and Mercantile restaurants and a participant on Bravo’s Top Chef (season 12). A teammate suggested adding lunch meats and cheeses to his sweet sandwiches. Ugh, thought Silversmith. But they were delicious, “surprisingly, delightfully delicious,” he said, and people lined up to try them.

Again, he did not win…
…but, again, he won the people’s choice honor. There was a rumble of interest, and the number of followers kept growing. Silversmith incorporated and kept experimenting with new butters and flavors. On unemployment, he borrowed two thousand dollars from his parents to buy a nut grinder, several hundred pounds of nuts, and flavored cinnamon, chocolate, and butterscotch chips. He started selling tubs of his peanut butter spreads as a vendor at a kids expo at the same convention center where he had formerly worked! He sold out that weekend, with no official label and not even a cash box. He could not keep up with the demand for his salted butterscotch peanut butter spread. “I realized this could be monetized,” he said, “so I came up with more flavors, including a spicy variety.” He started selling his flavored peanut and almond butters at farmers’ markets from Richmond to DC, from Culpepper to King George.
In late fall 2014, Silversmith heard a food counter was opening in an existing store on Fredericksburg’s main street. He had enough money from peanut butter tub sales to lease the space and become a brick and mortar eatery. “I was scared out of my mind that my idea was becoming a reality!” he exclaimed. “I didn’t have a clue about anything in the food industry, and here I am opening a sandwich shop?” He had to get permits for build-outs and changes. There were permitting hiccups, design issues, and delays, and he paid rent for about a year before selling anything from the space, frozen by his own fears and lack of knowledge.

But the space was perfect.
It has a bay window in front with an opening side window bordering on an alley where concerts and other community events happen. During Fredericksburg’s 2015 Christmas parade, Silversmith decided to sell hot chocolate from that window, just to be doing something with the space. “I looked up to see a line of people across the alley waiting to purchase the drinks, and we were vastly underprepared to serve them!” he said. “Holy *#%*!” he realized, “I had to get my act together!” Final construction started just days later in January 2016, and he set a grand opening date for April 2 — National PB&J Day (of course).
Silversmith turned the front bay window into a crêperie where people can watch crêpes being cooked on a big griddle. There is a miniature nut butter factory where customers can watch Silversmith and his team grind their gourmet nut butter spreads and package them in 8-ounce tubs. A retail display section shows off the spreads and jellies, including top sellers like “White Chocolate Almond Butter” and “Sweet Thai Chili Peanut Butter.” There are also seasonal spreads combining cinnamon peanut butter with peppermint at Christmastime, pumpkin spiced peanut butter at harvest time, and the newest, “Very Berry White Chocolate Almond Butter” for summer.
A cozy diner-type counter welcomes those who want to order Sprelly crêpes such as the “Crêpe Monsieur” (Sprelly almond butter, strawberry champagne jam, Virginia smoked deli ham, cheddar cheese) or the “Nannernutterscotch” (Sprelly salted butterscotch peanut butter, fresh sliced bananas, bacon, and caramel). Or how about a sandwich like the “Peppered Rooster” (Sprelly sweet chili peanut butter, hot pepper jam, deli turkey, and pepper jack cheese on whole wheat)?

Fast forward to January 2017…
At a local Chamber of Commerce gala with the Fredericksburg mayor, local members of the U.S. Congress, state representatives, and business leaders, Silversmith won the “Entrepreneur of the Year” award for community involvement and or his entrepreneurial spirit that “epitomizes business.” In May, he won the Virginia Living magazine award for “Best Local Sandwich Shop” for Central Virginia. From unemployment to a growing business…Silversmith cannot believe his success so far. He is determined to scale Sprelly with a franchise concept for the eatery and mass distribution of his line of gourmet nut butter spreads.

Can it really go national?
Maybe. Silversmith says he’d like to offer a licensing deal or a “freedom franchise,” selling ingredients as a dried mix of nuts, flavorings, and spices to people who can, in turn, make the Sprelly product to sell at local farmers’ markets, from a food truck, or in a brick and mortar mom and pop shop. “I want to scale it around the country as a streamlined operation so anyone can do it!” he grinned. “When you absolutely believe in something, and you work your butt off, there is no reason you can’t make your own opportunities in your own life. Maybe, if I just keep saying what I’m going to do, it will come true!”
For this charming young man — whose new take on the old-fashioned PB&J has always been the people’s choice — one can only hope he is right. For more information: www.sprelly.com; info@sprelly.com.

About the Author

LISA KEATHLEY is the managing editor of Foodservice Monthly.

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