Police officer, wounded on duty, builds his own company
BY WENDY ALTSCHULER For Sun-Times Media
In 1996, Jim Mullen was a Chicago police officer responding to a citizen’s call for help. A shot to the face left Mullen instantly and permanently paralyzed from the neck down. He currently requires the aid of a wheel chair for mobility and the use of a ventilator to breath.
This is not where Mullen’s story ends.
With nothing short of grit and gumption, as well as the support and love from his family, Mullen has become an innovator, an entrepreneur and an inspiration.
“Believe it or not I am still the same old guy I was before this incident took place. I’m very happy and very healthy and have a hell of a sense of humor,” Mullen said.
While at a doctor’s appointment, Mullen met Veronica Blalock, a woman who had started her own small local barbecue sauce company called Locks Bar-B-Q Sauce. After hearing her story, Mullen became motivated to fulfill his own vision of creating a food company.
“That very evening, I came home and started Mullen Foods and started doing research on the Internet,” he said. “It has been a very long and interesting road so far and one that I hope does not end anytime soon.”
Mullen Foods produces an all-natural, preservative-free applesauce that Mullen said tastes like apple pie in a jar. Fashioned from a family recipe, this applesauce is really a tribute to Mullen’s mother, Audre.
“She was a fabulous self-taught chef, and she made everything homemade or just about,” Mullen said. “I have wonderful memories of my lovely mother and helping her cook in the kitchen. In the fall time, we would peel apples to see who could get the longest peel before making the applesauce.”
After much research and assiduousness, Mullen found a manufacturer and made the dream of bottling his mother’s applesauce a reality.
“My only goal when I started was to get this on the shelf of our local store in the neighborhood where my mom shopped. I wanted her to be able to see it on the shelf,” Mullen said. “Well, I was able to get it on the shelf with a little coaxing. After a couple of years, we were on 200 hundred shelves. I have learned a lot over the years. Now, with a little luck, some more experience and finding some of the missing pieces, I will begin to ramp up things and try to grow this into a Midwest brand.”
Mullen Foods donates a portion of its proceeds to the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation, a nonprofit organization that honors the lives of Chicago police officers killed or seriously wounded in the line of duty. This organization also offers assistance and aid to the effected families.
Mullen Foods applesauce is available all over the greater Chicagoland area including retail locations at Whole Foods and select Jewel Foods stores. Visit www.mullenfoods.com for more information.
“This is a great opportunity for me because there are not many job opportunities for someone with a disability,” Mullen said. “My wife’s favorite line is: ‘When God gives you lemons, make lemonade.’ Well, we decided to make applesauce.”