[Editor’s Note: Welcome to The Market Report, an irregular and irreverent profile of a variety of vendors at the many markets of Stratford. Learn more about the people that make the Farmers markets, festivals, pop-ups happen!]
By Tom Dillon
The Shakespeare Market – First and Third Sundays at Shakespeare Park
Paradise Green Market – Find yourself in paradise every Monday afternoon June 19th – November
Welcome to The Market Report, an irregular and irreverent profile of a variety of vendors at the many markets of Stratford. Learn more about the people that make the Farmers markets, festivals, pop-ups happen.
“We’re definitely Jill’s of all trades. We do everything! Bakers, saleswomen, accountants, marketers, social media – Everything!” – Stephania Halverson
Meet Stephania and Jessica, proud proprietors of THE DRUNK ALPACA. You’ll find them under the HOT PINK TENT all over town and all over the state at fairs, festivals and farmers markets selling their one of a kind handmade pretzels, pies, potato chips, cookies, brownies and blondies.
Each item incorporates the flavors of various kinds of alcohols (temperance minded folk have nothing to fear, the alcohol has been cooked off leaving nothing but the flavor). Whiskey Spicy Pretzels, Peach Bourbon Pie, Hard Cider Glazed Chips are just the beginning of a long list of amazing items you’ll find everywhere they go and at an array of craft breweries throughout the state.
The two worked together for several years at Whole Foods before deciding over drinks to leave their gruelling corporate 45 hour work weeks and went into business together way back in 2016. They named the new company The Drunk Alpaca as a nod to Jessica’s family Alpaca farm and their alcohol themed snack style.
At first the duo aimed their sites at the Farmers Market circuit, every town has one and some, like Stratford, have more! Soon after they stumbled on to the craft brewery connection. “We had a Guniess brownie and then we decided to make it with a local stout instead and that started the ball rolling,” said Jessica.
The business started booming as the craft brewery scene in Connecticut started blowing up. Stephania and Jessica reached out to one brewery after another to stock their snacks in their tasting rooms. More orders came next by using each brewery’s beers in custom creations.
Now the business balances a handful of markets including The Shakespeare Market every first and third Sunday of the month, 203 Local Pop Up at Surfside on Saturdays, and the Monroe Farmers Market. All their events, stores, and breweries can be found on their website: https://thedrunkalpaca.square.site/ or social media: https://www.facebook.com/thedrunkalpaca
With two dozen breweries, a dozen specialty stores and 16 events in May alone, you might wonder how these two pull it all together. “I think a lot of the difficulty is finding enough hours in
the day,” smiled Jessica. The truth is that nothing accomplishes this but incredibly hard work. That 45 hour work week looks cushy compared to the 7 day-a-week, 80 hour a week labor of love.
Doing it all inevitably takes time. Baking is not even the half of it! After baking is done there is packing up for the event, traveling to the event, setting up at the event, breaking down after the event and unloading everything back at the kitchen. If that weren’t enough there applications, licensing, permits, insurance to boot. It’s enough to drive you to drink! What a wonder there is any alcohol left to bake with.
Doing business in Connecticut has its challenges too. Each town has different rules, regulations, and fees. And with 169 towns in Connecticut that creates a lot of work before a single chip can be chomped. “A big obstacle for us is how different every single town is. It would just be easier if there was a streamlined way to get your permits.”
Is there any silver lining? “It’s different from town to town, but in Stratford the farmers market Health Department permit will cover any event in Stratford. We just have to let them know we are doing an event. Whereas in other towns you’re paying additional fees,” said Stepania.
And the cherry on top is Stephania is one of Stratford’s own! 2002 graduate of Stratford High, Stephania has lived in town for most of her life. So if you needed one more excuse to go find the HOT PINK TENT and stuff your face with pie, there it is.
And when the day is done, and everything is packed up what do these two do? Well, next time you see them ask them about the Closer to Free Ride for Cancer Research at Smilow Cancer Hospital. Find out more at https://www.rideclosertofree.org/
Folks, the moral of the story is find yourself a market, meet your vendors, and shop local. Save some of that hard earned cash and spend it with someone you can look in the eye and thank for making something special for you and your family.
Tom Dillon Market Manager
The Shakespeare Market – First and Third Sundays at Shakespeare Park https://www.theshakespearemarket.org/
Paradise Green Market – Find yourself in paradise every Monday afternoon June 19 – November