David and Constance Jesser have owned Jacksonville Mercantile for five years. Mail Tribune / Jim Craven - Jim Craven

Home Grown: Jacksonville Mercantile

Editor's note: This is one in a weekly series of profiles on locally owned and operated businesses in Southern Oregon.

What do you do and how long have you been doing it?

(David speaking) We are a specialty and gourmet food shop focusing on a lot of hard-to-find food adventures, and we are also corporate and holiday gift basket specialists — custom baskets as well as pre-made. We opened the store five years ago, and it was our first foray into retail sales.

How long have you lived in the Rogue Valley?

It'll be six years in August. We lived in Chicago until I was turning 40. We grew up in Illinois.

What inspired you to go into this line of work?

My wife, and our love of food and wine. We really found that much of our social life is having and going to dinner parties. Quite frankly, my wife is my muse in trying to create a less stressful business where people are happy 99.9 percent of the time. We moved here and this was not even on our radar screen; we had looked at bed and breakfasts, and restaurants and inns and such. This building just called out to me, and I said, "Let's do this, it'll be great," and we did it.

What decision or action would you change if you could do it again?

I think I would have made people aware that we are more than just a gourmet and food store. The fact that we do gift baskets sets us apart from others. We started to do those about two years ago and I would have started doing that earlier.

What's the toughest business decision you've made?

Building our website and putting a thousand products on it, and learning about social media and integrating it into our online business. We just realized we had to do it. We bought a shopping cart from a local internet group out here that has done a good job. It's unbelievable the stuff you can try with technology, but it eats up a lot of time.

Who are your competitors?

I think we're pretty well set apart. I think we share a market, maybe, with Harry & David or Allyson's of Ashland, but we carry a wider range, and focus on high-quality and hard-to-find food products. If we don't have something and you can wait three days, we will have it.

What are your goals?

To make it grow a bit more; hopefully a whole lot more so that we can create some jobs.

What training or education did you need?

We learn every single day. The thing that has helped us dramatically is my wife's ability to find fabulous food products that when people try them, they fall in love with them. It's a passion that is above all things. We have a library at our house and 98 percent of the close to 500 books are cookbooks.

What's your advice for budding entrepreneurs?

Have a business plan that includes patience. Reach out and become part of your community. And have fun.

To suggest ideas for this column, about businesses that are at least five years old, contact reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or e-mail

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