RedCamper has always honored place, heritage & culture, while building awareness of the unique qualities of this earth. We met owner Maura Gramzinski many moons ago, and were so thrilled to see her handcrafted creations find a semi-permanent home here in Wash Park. Maura believes in ethically sourced and thoughtfully crafted goods. From her delicious preserves, to her hilarious homemade postcards, you will find yourself wanting to linger inside the walls of RedCamper, a one-stop shop for all your summertime picnic needs. We had a chance to learn more about Maura’s journey.
Let’s start at the beginning before RedCamper, you were a kid inspired to travel and explore the world by your adventure-seeking grandparents. Can you tell us more?
Absolutely! I was born into a family with wanderlust. My grandparents were indeed adventure-seekers, and adven-ture-finders, with their black and white flowered suitcases. They traveled a lot, and photographed a lot, and came back home sharing their stories over a good old-fashioned slide show in the living room. My parents christened me to this philosophical approach to life by packing us up for months at a time traveling the US and Central America in a beat-up old sky blue Ford with a wood paneled red camper shell on the back and a set of tee pee poles strapped to the top. Travel, storytelling, experiencing other cultures and keeping your mind and heart open to whatever was going to happen that day were a big part of my upbringing. Years later when my grandparents passed away and I inherited all their travel slides I sought to honor them and their spirit. And here we are…17 years later.
When did RedCamper come to life, and what was the first flavor of preserve you made?
Well, RedCamper came to life in 2004 but I was doing something much different then. I started this company making handbags from those vintage 35mm photographic slides I inherited from my grandparents. RedCamper has been a meandering journey full of a lot of different spots to say the least. At some point along the way my first employee, Mark Veljkovich, convinced me to enter my backyard grown Whiskey Peach Deliciousness (preserve) in the Denver County Fair. After it won we (I) decided we should try to add it to the RedCamper line. That original flavor Colorado Whiskey Peach is still our best seller.
You’re now in a brick-and-mortar space at 1939 E. Kentucky, where Fooducopia once was (for Wash Park veterans). Your space is expansive and goes well beyond just jams and jellies. What can newcomers expect to find inside your new space?
Yes! Thank you for calling out this important part of our shop. We aren’t just a jam shop, we are a specialty food and gift store that supplies ready to go picnic kits, a variety of food and home good treats and a small collection of vintage travel or picnic wares. The former Fooducopia was where we have been cooking up jams for almost 2 years now, behind the scenes, so when the restaurant closed we were fortunate enough to be able to stay, and to try out a retail concept in the former dining and market space. I’ve been wanting a shop for quite some time to not only connect with our existing customers, showcase our line, but also to introduce folks to other small makers that are doing some really great things in food and craft, both locally and regionally. We are proud to be in a community of makers that are dedicated to ethically, sustainably and in many cases regeneratively making their goods with heart and soul. We have a very intentionally selected mix of gift items, food items, cocktail items and ready to go picnic items that each proudly tell a story of place, of true meaning. I love introducing people to brands like Desert Forager who is a botanist out foraging prickley pears to make shrubs in Tucson, Arizona, Passamaquody Maple Syrup that is an indigenous-owned, woman-run tree to table maple syrup company in Maine that we found in sourcing for our Sweetwater Cranberry Compote, and local companies like Flouwer Co. who is making flower infused crackers and cocktail cubes and Linji that is a fairly new addition to the local food scene with her Chili Oil that is phenomenal. I also have a big soft spot for vintage travel or picnic related items so you will find a few of those kind of pieces around the shop. I can’t forget our 3x weekly bread and pastry partner, Reunion Bread Co.
We love that you work with local farmers for your ingredients. What inspires your inventive preserves and recipes?
We cherish our relationship with all the farmers we work with. It feels important to connect to the source and believe in that source. What inspires me about recipe development has changed a bit over the years. Initially it was really about putting together flavors that tasted good, looked good and sounded good. A trifecta of factors that were equally important to me. It was as simple as that. Then as I learned more, grew more, I really realized how critical it was that I believed in all my suppliers’ ethics and commitment to being the best citizens of the planet as they could be as much as I do. Putting together a recipe has now become more about trying to tell an important story that you can hear, taste, smell, and that both literally and figuratively nourishes you. Now building recipes became more complicated, but even more fulfilling. Our last two new flavors, the Pueblo Chile Peach and the Sweetwater Cranberry Compote are really very specifically about different places and peoples and history. We worked extremely hard at finding partners to create these flavors that really have unique stories while growing supreme fruit and vegetables and syrups.
You feel passionate about supporting other local vendors throughout Colorado. Who are some of your favorite makers here?
Well, I think a browse through our shop will find almost all of my favorites. Bee Squared, PB Love Co, Jojo’s, Il Porcellino, Dram, New Beat, Flouwer, Table Mountain Co. Bibamba (incredible back story here), Cultura, Ritual Chocolate (not currently from here…but originally), Linji, Merf’s, Reunion Bread, Happy Leaf, The Real Dill, Huckleberry, Queen City, Middlestate, Winter Session, Moore Collection, Sjotime Industries…it’s really pretty awing how many amazing makers there are here and not just food, soft goods, furniture. I think right now I’m most excited about our recent collaboration with Winter Session to create the supreme Picnic Bag. Come by the shop to check them out.
When you’re not in the kitchen or in the shop, how do you like to spend your free time?
Free time is something I’ve had to learn to force myself to have for recharging over the last few years as RedCamper has dominated my life, but I have a garden that is crushing it this summer so that’s fun. I’d like to someday publish, so I do some writing when I can. I’m also spending as much time as I can with my aging greyhound/love of my life, the Classy Jackaloper, which means walks, laying in the grass at the park and road trips to New Mexico and Arizona to visit family. I also am super glad things are opening up as I love going to the art museum and gallery openings and restaurants. I also love me a good sunset hike in nature when the crickets come out and everything is quiet.
What can we expect from RedCamper in the future?
Good question. I obviously have transformed this company repeatedly in the past so it’s a challenge to stay in my lane. I will say we are pretty excited about a couple new things. First, the Bourbon Cocktail Cherries that we made with Law’s Whiskey and recently won a Good Food Award for. We think the existing craft cocktail garnish needed a bump and we are excited to truly get this out there. Keep your eyes peeled for our Spicy Cocktail Cherry coming soon. And secondly, the addition of the RedCamper x Winter Session Picnic Bag to our lifestyle line of travel/picnic accessories is a vision long time in coming. Other than that..who knows…RedCamper Cookbook / Travelog, RedCamper Motel? RedCamper Camper? RedCamper Luggage? . . . it’s a real problem.
Seems like a good problem to us, Maura! No matter where you land, we intend to be there to support you in all your future endeavors. One of our favorite hobbies is shopping small and supporting local. If you’d like to learn more, visit RedCamper at 1939 E. Kentucky or at redcamper.com