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Foodie Friday: Top Shelf Preserves

By Amanda Armstrong on April 28, 2017


When Sara Pishva first made the decision to start her own small business, she began with a series of lists. “Get a web domain, hire a designer, order a pallet of jars to your apartment – I took starting a business super casually at first” remembers Sara, about the early days of Top Shelf Preserves.

It started off small, but Top Shelf Preserves has now become an Ottawa mainstay. Sara has been on radio, and television, and has spoken about local food on a panel at the Ottawa International Writer’s Festival. She has successfully trademarked her business name and Top Shelf Preserves was an official sponsor of the 2016 Canadian Cheese Awards. You can find Top Shelf products in over 25 different shops across the city. Just last month, Top Shelf Preserves hit another big milestone: Sara shipped her first full pallet of preserves in a single order.

Since day one, Sara has been 100% committed to her business. She’s immersed herself in food preserving and canning, experimenting with new flavour profiles and improving on what already works. “When I come up with new ideas for preserves, I think about how they will look, taste, smell, and feel,” remarks Sara about her creative process. She recognizes the value of spending time alone in the kitchen, playing with new ideas. She also recognizes the importance of honest feedback. “When I create something good, it is immediately apparent. Everyone in the kitchen will be swooning over a jam or pickle experiment and I know there’s something valuable.”

Sara has also recently hired on friend, and former Mello’s chef, Mike Frank. After building Top Shelf Preserves into the tremendous success that it is, Sara now aims to find a better work/life balance. “This year marks intention; rearranging priorities”, reflects Sara. Having Mike’s help in the kitchen means that 16-hour workdays are a thing of the past and Sara can focus on the administrative tasks necessary to grow the business. Sara also took her first vacation since starting the business a few weeks back.

Although it has been four years, Sara has not taken the time to celebrate past anniversaries of Top Shelf Preserves, as she was always too busy and focused on growing her brand. Following through on her ambitions of balance, this year things will be different. As the business turns four, she “intend(s) to spend Top Shelf Preserves’ birthday enjoying the company of friends and good food” and you are invited to join in the celebrations.

Top Shelf Preserves’ 4th anniversary party will be held this coming Monday at Citizen (207 Gilmour Street), with food by Mike Frank and music by DJ Jas Nasty.