After moving to Arizona to attend ASU, Kelsey and Shane Digman often found themselves asking their mom to ship jars of giardiniera to the desert. Now, they own a business that sells the Italian-style condiment in the Valley.
The Digman siblings, who are originally from Chicago, decided to open Kelsey D’s Giardiniera after noticing a big difference in part of the cultures. Namely, a lack of the condiment.
“I came out here and realized that nobody really knows what it is,” Kelsey said.
Giardiniera consists of marinated, chopped-up vegetables that include peppers, carrots, spices, and gherkins.
“Some people say it’s more of a tickly taste, just because there’s vinegar in there,” Kelsey said.
She explained it can be used as toppings for pizza, omelets and chips or be mixed with tuna salad.
“You can really put it on anything,” she said.
In Chicago, giardiniera is served in many common places like Subway.
The siblings’ mother, Carol, didn’t believe them when they said the Chicago favorite wasn’t served in Arizona grocery stores.
“I was like, ‘Yes it is!’” Carol said. “We asked somebody if they had it, and they had no idea what it was.”
It dawned on Kelsey that she could spread some Chicago culture to Arizona by selling giardiniera.
“We’d just try to sell there, because nobody’s heard of the product,” Shane said.
Carol and her business partner, Don Walsh, have helped the siblings throughout the process of opening and expanding the business.
Their experience with an investment company and business background has helped the Digman siblings financially and through daily questions, Kelsey said.
“I wasn’t a business major,” she said. “You have to learn through experience, so they just were, and they still do, guide me.”
Kelsey D’s Giardiniera became a reality, and before long, her face was on jars of the homemade condiment.
Shane said she had a more familiar face, and people recognized her more.
“She’s the better-looking one in the family, I would say,” he said.
While at ASU, both siblings majored in communications, which Kelsey said has helped with their start-up.
“It’s helped me a lot with public speaking and communicating with all sorts of people,” Kelsey said.
Shane agreed that it improved his business skills.
“It’s been really helpful, just dealing with clients and being able to communicate with them,” he said.
Kelsey D’s Giardiniera has expanded, and the two run separate branches in different cities.
Shane, who is centered in Chicago, said his location is a lot easier for sales.
“Giardiniera is a product that’s already been established in the Chicago area,” he said. “In Arizona, it’s more of a project.”
Kelsey, who runs her business out of her Gilbert home, has appeared in farmers markets and grocery stores.
“I’m actually in contact with Sam’s Club right now,” she said.
Once the paperwork is completed, Kelsey will begin displaying her giardiniera at different Sam’s Club locations.
“You sample your product and if it sells well, then they keep it in there,” she said. “Sometimes I’ll sample it with bread, or I’ll sample it with Italian beef … it’s pretty simple.”
Kelsey said she has a few tricks up her sleeve to improve the condiment.
“Mine is low in sodium,” she said. “There’s only one gram of sugar, which comes from a carrot.”
Shane said other brands often use salt, which is loaded with sodium, to create a spice.
“Our hotter ones have Serrano peppers in it,” he said.
Kelsey said other brands often soak their vegetables in a water oil base. Kelsey D’s Giardiniera doesn’t, because that makes them soggy.
“Some people don’t really like that,” Kelsey said.
According to the siblings, people have had positive reactions to the Kelsey D’s Giardiniera brand.
“I think our product is better than most of the other products,” Shane said.
That opinion is backed up by the multiple grocery stores that carry the condiment in Chicago and Wisconsin. However, the Digmans are not satisfied.
“Our goal would be to develop another product, and then continually growing laterally as a company,” Shane said.
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