Weaving together the traditions from days gone past, with top quality local produce, a passion for flavour and a dose of nostalgia has created a successful business for Josie Robinson.
The Gore local created Robbies Pickles and Preserves five years ago and these days is renowned across the District and throughout the country for her award-winning artisan creations – in fact she is often called Mrs. Pickles!
But Josie isn’t about the latest and greatest trends or ideas, instead, she very proudly looks back to a time where homemade pickles and preserves were a household staple, often made with love over Nana’s hot stove top.
In Josie’s case, it was the delicious preserves made by her Nana Violet that she missed most years on. And it seems, that taste of quality and nostalgia is something many people are searching for.
From a variety of pickled onions, relishes and sauces, Robbies’ reputation and business has steadily grown with each customer, many of whom say they return time and time again for the taste of their childhood.
“When I was pregnant with my third child, I really wanted some of those foods I remember from my childhood, that my Nana made.
A taste of nostalgia
“Financially, I just couldn’t go out and buy what I wanted, so I put the work in and used Nana’s recipes to create those flavours to satisfy my cravings,” Josie says.
“I love to grow my own vegetables and I was able to use those in the recipes, so from the start, I knew the ingredients were spray free and really good quality. I really enjoyed the art of making the relishes and sauces that I just kept going and started giving it away to friends.
“One day, a friend said to me that it was really too good to be giving away for free and she felt she should pay as she enjoyed it so much. That got me thinking.”
Josie started to sell at local markets and soon started adding pickled onions to her repertoire.
“The pickled onions have been a huge hit – we have had people say they tried them, and they were just like their nana, or their mum used to make, and it took them back to that time in their lives. It’s something special to be able to create such a moment for people, all through the food I make.
“Food memories are always a cherished memory of a time passed with someone we loved who we often don’t have now. It begins there, and then there’s always time to make new ones.”
According to Josie, it all comes back to the simple things in life. A pile of traditional recipes from Josie’s Nana Violet, the green thumbs for growing great produce from her grandad, and memories intertwined from other loved ones. Even the name has a traditional family twist.
“My husband’s grandfather was in the Royal Air Force in World War II and his call name was Robbie. Once we started making our products, I knew we needed a good strong name to go with it, so Robbies was born. Our business really gives a nod to our grandparents, that family connection is just so important to us.”
Josie, her husband Gus and their three children moved to Gore a few years back and they couldn’t be happier.
“Gore has given us so many opportunities – I have always said I wanted to put Gore on the map and in my own small way with Robbies and through the awards I have won, I have done that.
“We have a wonderful community here who have really got behind me, behind my values and mission in my business, and it has an incredible community spirit.
“When we first moved here, we didn’t know many people but honestly, food removes all barriers and brings people together. Now we have the best support in the community, and we are proud to use as much local Southland produce as we can, and everything else is sourced from the wider South Island.
“It has been an amazing journey and we look forward to what the future brings for us.”
Check out Robbies products online -- www.robbies.nz – and read about their latest awards too!