One 21-year old graduate of Parkway West High School is really glad James Caleb Jackson allegedly crumbled graham flour and baked it in 1863, calling it and launching Jackson's Granula. A connection to this local resident clearly was fated.
Fast-forward to today, with an updated name for this oat-based food, and introducing Jack's Extreme Granola as a local business. Jackson "Jack" Woolsey, a Ballwin resident, food entrepreneur and Parkway West alum, is on the autism spectrum. At one point, Jack didn't know what he would do after high school. In looking toward his future, he says he was blessed with the opportunity to volunteer at More than Coffee, a business at 14240 Manchester Road, whose founder dedicated the operation to assisting those with disabilities to gain employment, as well as social and independent living skills.
More Than Coffee serves gourmet coffee, baked pastries, sandwiches, all with lots of smiles!
Jack's mother, Cheryl Woolsey, says he started volunteering at More than Coffee at age 14. She adds that Sam Malek, who started this shop, has since retired and Jack no longer volunteers there. However, Sam continues to work with him a few times a week as his job coach and mentor.
Through that volunteerism, however, Jack says he cemented his joy of working with granola, and perfected his own recipes over a couple of years. Cheryl says Jack's products are all-natural granola, baked with love and quality ingredients. "He received rave reviews."
So Jack then worked with the owners of 6 North Cafe at 14438 Clayton Road to sell his granola creations. His products are still sold there in Ballwin.
"Jack is absolutely passionate about baking, and this granola is a recipe he's made every year over the holidays to give out as gifts. It evolved into his own project where he makes fresh, all natural granola weekly," Cheryl explains. "This has been such a confidence builder for him and has fostered his independence."
She says the two of them have made granola together since Jack was a toddler. "We gave it as holiday gifts in Mason jars each year to family, friends and teachers. We would make about 50 to 60 jars each year. So by the time he started volunteering at More Than Coffee, he was very familiar with that recipe. It was a popular product there and that's how his business blossomed."
"He's so proud when repeat granola customers return and tell him how much they love his product," Cheryl adds.
Jack wanted to offer granola cookies, so Cheryl says they practiced at home to get a recipe he liked before making and selling in the commercial kitchen space (Creative Cookery) that they rent. "The energy bites we introduced last year have been a big hit so far," she adds.
Ingredients for Jack's products typically are secured at Trader Joes and Costco.
Cheryl says they're discussing a possible fall introduction of a new flavor of energy bites. Jack already makes pumpkin chocolate and chocolate almond bites. He says his favorite ingredient in the granola is the almonds and he likes the chocolate chips in the cookies and the pumpkin energy bites.
"It's a dream of mine to establish our own commercial kitchen that encourages those with disabilities to come use and make their own products to sell, and also offer cooking classes to facilitate independent life skill training," says Cheryl.
A portion of Jack's proceeds are donated to local nonprofits that help people with special needs, such as St. Louis Arc, Extreme St. Louis Foundation, TASK and KEEN.
JACK'S EXTREME GRANOLA PROVIDES FOR HEALTH CONCERNS OR PREFERENCES
All of Jack's products are gluten friendly.
The bites are vegan and dairy free.
Jack's granola and cookies are vegan and dairy free as well, with the exception of honey.
If customers have a special request, and are willing to buy in bulk, Jack says they will certainly try to accommodate.
Jackson "Jack" Woolsey, founder of Jack's Extreme Granola, hasn't let his autism affect his food creativity. He's had vocational training with More Than Coffee, Teens in Motion, Schnucks, Goodwill and Bethesda Meadows. Jack sells his granola products locally at Wildwood Farmers Market, Boulevard Farmers Market, 6 North Cafe and vendor events at the Chesterfield Athletic Club. In addition, his products are available online at JacksExtremeGranola.com.