We love fries, yes we do! We love fries, how about you?!
You know what else we love? Supporting local businesses, helping others, and being part of good causes. Lucky for us – the delight that is Just Fries feels the same way.
Locally owned and family run small business—Just Fries—is making their mark in the Harrisonburg community through sharing both their amazing fries and their powerful mission. With the name “Just Fries” standing for the obvious fact that they just serve fries, but also that they serve as “a means of justice” and hope to all those who support them, through their mission.
While delighting our tastebuds and providing that unbeatable “Boardwalk Fries” nostalgia, Just Fries has also made it their mission to be part of something larger than themselves. They're doing this through raising awareness for and giving a portion of all their proceeds to (also locally owned, non-profit) New Creation Ministries in support of human trafficking survivors.
We had the pleasure of talking with owners and Husband & Wife team, Dusty and Jenna Burchnall, at a recent community event, and after enjoying some fries ourselves (and overhearing the full approval from a delighted 6 year old who managed to say “These fries are so good! They are hot, salty and a little soggy!” in between mouthfuls); we got some inside information about these local entrepreneurs and their venture into Just Fries. Read on to check out the interview! >>>
Q: As an entrepreneur by nature, what inspired you to start Just Fries?
Dusty: Nostalgia for one. I grew up eating Thrasher's French Fries on the Ocean City Maryland boardwalk with my grandfather. And there was just nothing better than that. Fast forward a few decades and my brother-in-law bought me a kettle fish fryer so I could try my hand at frying the hand cut fries I had been baking in the oven at that point. My mom's cousin worked at Thrasher's back in college in the 70s, and he still remembers the process, so I started picking his brain. It produced such good fries whenever I made them for family or friends, they always commented on how they're the best fries they've ever had, and that we should consider starting a business. And while I'm somehow hardwired to always think "hey… I could sell that!"; with so many different things I make and do, I resisted the thought because I don't want to be someone who tries to make a buck at everything I do. But after a while I realized we could build a business together, as a family, selling these fries everyone loves so much, and it could be a very positive experience for our kids. So, we went for it.
Q: What made you decide to go into business with your family?
Dusty: I've had a lot of businesses and business ideas through the years, but this is the first that Jenna and my kids were interested in doing with me. And I longed for that. So, I saw it both as an opportunity to work with my bride, and to teach our kids entrepreneurship, which is something that was not exemplified growing up, and I want those things for my marriage and my family.
Q: What would you say makes your fries special?
Dusty: Quality and simplicity. Everyone loves fries. And it's not real hard to make a good fry. But great fries are a little more involved and the requirements and process more specific. I love the idea of keeping it simple and doing one thing really well. Being an expert at something. If the feedback we receive from our customers is any indication, we've achieved that.
Q: Tell us about your special sauces!
Dusty: The ketchup is store bought, but it's from Heinz which has quite the following, and we only use their natural recipe which does not contain corn syrup or other especially unhealthy ingredients. Our house made fry sauce is a huge crowd pleaser and is created by Jenna. It's a mayo and ketchup based savory sauce that she developed and tested herself. We receive so much acclaim for that sauce, it's nuts. Customers often ask if we bottle it so they can buy some. It's that good. And it's good on all kinds of things, not just fries. Beyond those we offer white vinegar, which tends to be nostalgic for folks who grew up eating true boardwalk fries, as well as Old Bay, which is a staple for folks from, or who grew up in, the Baltimore area or on the Eastern Shore.
Q: What inspired your decision to make supporting local non-profit, New Creation, part of your business plan?
Dusty: God, I suppose. We felt the nudge to create something that not only would support our family, but that would care for others in a real way as it grows and thrives. We couldn't really think of a cause greater than serving victims of the most egregious act we could think of… sex trafficking. New Creation is the organization that exposed us to what is happening in our community and world with trafficking, and they do such an incredible job with both prevention AND redemption of women and children who have been trafficked. So it was an easy decision for us, and a natural fit, to allocate a certain percentage of our net revenue to their ministry. And it's marketable in the sense that the word Just in our business name not only refers to the fact that we only serve French fries, but also that our business is a means of justice. As a creative I love that. And I love seeing people's faces when they realize the depth and true meaning of our name. It's not only about fries.
Q: What is your hope for the future of Just Fries as a family business and community favorite?
Dusty: We are developing plans for growth both in our local community/region, and beyond. Our hope and plan is that we will grow beyond Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, bringing joy to festival-goers all around Virginia, while inspiring others to think creatively about their food service businesses, supporting our family, and raising more and more money to prevent trafficking before it starts while freeing trafficking victims from this new form of slavery.