Owner overcomes humble beginnings to launch dessert shop in Prosser

By Emily Goodell, Yakima Valley Business Times

Nestled inside Desert Wind Winery in Prosser is Jade Visser’s pride and joy: Jade’s British Girl Treats, a confection shop, bakery and deli.

Every day, Visser crafts chocolate concoctions and English toffee, designs delicate desserts and — most importantly to her — finds daily enjoyment in providing a service to her customers.

“Making other people happy brings me joy,” she said. “That’s the heart of it. I love to see the smiles.”

But for Visser, cooking wasn’t always something that brought her joy.

When she was a young girl growing up in Sheffield, England, her mother was ailing. Her parents didn’t have money and needed help, so as the eldest daughter, Visser became her family’s caretaker at 12 years old.

“My mom was so ill they took me out of school,” she recalled. “I was always the one who had to support the family and take care of the kids.”

She was in charge of all the household duties: laundry, cleaning, taking care of her younger siblings — and cooking.

“It was a drudge at first and I was resentful,” said Visser, 52, of Sunnyside. “But the more I was able to get creative with what I did and take a recipe and put my own twist on it, I actually got more and more excited about it.”

Chocolatier Jade Visser opened Jade’s British Girl Treats inside Desert Wind Winery in Prosser this past winter. She added a full service bakery and deli in April. (Courtesy Yakima Valley Business Times)

Reactions from others made all the difference. At first, preparing food was an obligation forced on her due to her family’s circumstances. But when family and friends sampled her food and enjoyed it — when they were surprised that it came from her own recipes — she fell in love with cooking.

“The excitement of people about my food … made me feel good,” Visser said. “It became quite addicting, but not in a big-headed kind of way. It was just. ‘I did that. I can do this.’ ”

Visser started making chocolates after her first visit to the U.S. in 1986. She watched her host mother make chocolates out of baking chocolate and shortening.

“She was using these really cheesy molds to turn out these amazing chocolates; I was absolutely fascinated,” Visser said. “When I went home, I did my research. I came up with a better chocolate, a better mold, a lot of hand preparation of chocolates and I just fell in love with that.”

Through the years, Visser has developed new techniques for making chocolates and new concepts, but the quality of the chocolate itself hasn’t changed much.

When she started making chocolates, she had no idea what airbrushing or hand painting a chocolate was. Now, she does it all, making chocolates from scratch, forming chocolate with molds, and hand painting, transferring and airbrushing chocolates.

Visser said in most chocolate shops, including hers, you can
find standard treats like truffles or caramels. What sets her apart is her originality.

“Nobody else does it and I know that because they’re my recipes and my designs,” Visser said. “So, you wouldn’t be able to walk in and find a strawberry balsamic vinegar chocolate. You wouldn’t be able
to go in and find the Jack Daniel’s pyramids because they’re my concept.”

To come up with new chocolate concepts like the Jack Daniel’s pyramids, she focuses on flavor first. She takes chocolate and other ingredients and layers them together, letting those around her taste-test the creations.

In addition to selling chocolates, Visser does custom promotional and retail work for wineries, custom desserts for special events and dessert catering. She also maintains wholesale accounts from Yakima to the Tri-Cities, supplying area restaurants with desserts.

Visser opened the bakery in April, selling fresh-baked rolls, artisan bread, specialty cakes, tarts and fruit bars. Visser said the bakery also offers custom works for events.

The deli is open three days a week, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, serving soups, salads and sandwiches, all made from scratch.

Another prominent product Visser sells is a line of unique “mixers” named after her husband, Greg, a residential loan officer at Sunnyside’s Banner Bank.

The party snacks come in different flavors: Greg’s Hunting Mix (mesquite), Greg’s Fishing Mix (salt and vinegar) and Greg’s Cabin Mix (original).

Two of the newer varieties are gluten-free: Greg’s Farmers Mix (honey and sea salt) and Greg’s Mountain Mix (sweet and salty).

The idea for the mixers came about on their first date. They were talking and connecting over food when Greg told his future wife about a party mix he made.

“I’m thinking in my head, ‘Uh-huh, you shouldn’t ever tell that on a first date,’ ” Visser said. “Then he brought me a gallon bag of this party mix and I couldn’t stop eating it. It took me about an hour to devour a gallon bag, and I looked at him and I said, ‘You know, this is amazing.’ ”

Her husband, along with creating the mixers, played a huge role in her following her dream and opening the dessert shop inside the winery.

“He made my dream come true, because he believed in me right from the start and said, ‘Go do it,’ ” Visser said. “Not a lot of people have believed in me. I didn’t have a family that believed in me.”

Through the years, Visser has struggled to follow her dreams. After having to care for her family, she left home when she was young and put herself through college twice, to culinary school and business school.

She moved to the U.S. and opened an art supply store, chocolate shops, bakeries and a steakhouse. She got divorced. She moved all over the U.S.: Montana, Utah, Washington. She raised 10 children, including triplets.

“It’s been rough with a failed marriage and having a lot of children to support, but I got to this time in my life and I met this wonderful man that said, ‘Follow your dream,’ ” she said. “Why do I work so hard? Because I love my husband so much and I’m so grateful he gave me so much. Everything I do is for him.”

Visser loves to incorporate local flavors into her food. Being involved in the community guarantees the freshness, taste and quality of the product.

“You’re supporting one another, and supporting one another is what’s important to me,” she said. “Anybody can go to the grocery store and buy something, but I’m not sure who I’m supporting doing that.”

Visser wants to support her community the way the community has supported her. She came to live in Sunnyside because her husband grew up there, but she stayed because of the people. When she came to the U.S., because of her strong accent, people stopped her every day to ask her why she would want to live in the U.S.

“They would kind of be negative about it and I was like, ‘You just don’t know what you have,’ ” Visser said. “Unless you’ve experienced another country, you guys don’t know what you have here.”

She said in her experience, people in the U.S. are warm, welcoming and supportive. Americans are genuinely happy to help others.

“Coming into the Valley, to Sunnyside, it’s even more so because it’s a community,” Visser said. “From Yakima to the Tri-Cities, it’s that community feel that is missing in other places. So I’m not going anywhere.”

When Visser stepped off the plane from the U.K. into the U.S., she had an overwhelming sense of belonging, like she was home. She said she felt the same way when she moved to Sunnyside and married Greg. She was home.

“I really do love what I do. I really do. I can get up every day and I don’t go to work: I go to play,” Visser said. “I don’t care how busy I am or how many hours I put in in a day. At the end of the day, you can’t compensate for someone going, ‘Wow, that was really good.’ That just brings me joy.”

Her shop is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week.

Jade’s British Girl Treats: 2258 Wine Country Road, inside Desert Wind Winery, Prosser; 509-643-9450; Facebook; britishgirltreats.com.

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