All month, we’re keeping the Mother’s Day momentum going, highlight moms we ♥ in the city and the suburbs. First up is Upper West Side/Hamptons mom of (almost!) two and founder of Watermelon Road, Jamie Melzer.
Jamie Melzer always knew that she wanted to be in New York City—but she never expected the path she would ultimately take once she got here.
“I graduated, I moved up to New York and went into investment banking on Wall Street. I spent 11 years doing that,” she explains. “I was running a global commodities portfolio when my first daughter was born in 2015.” After being back for six months, Jamie knew the path she had initially envisioned wasn’t the right one anymore, and she needed to make a change. Between working late, traveling and clocking countless hours to support her clients, she could go days without seeing then-infant Charlotte.
“That was not the mom that I wanted to be. So I decided to take a break from that career and had to figure out what I wanted to do with my life,” she says.
While Jamie had, since college, been focused on a career in finance, she always had a keen interest in healthy food. “I love sharing food with people,” she says. “But when my husband and I started dating nine years ago, I got really focused on it because he has an autoimmune disease, which so many people in our generation have.”
After studying the industrialization of food and the impact of processed foods on our guts and our health, she began to recognize the connection between what we eat and how we feel—and, in her family’s case, how it all feeds into autoimmune issues. “Once we made all of these changes and eliminated processed foods from our diet, he went into remission and has been in remission for years. His inflammation is almost nothing, with no medication.”
While this truly opened Jamie’s eyes to the power of food, it also made her realize how much misinformation is in the marketplace. “It seems like common sense, but our food system is so convoluted in the messages they put out there—what’s healthy and what’s not and all of the things that people try and scare you into eating or not eating. It’s really confusing. And so it’s not common sense anymore.”
Her advice: “we should be eating real whole foods.” To help make that easier for families, Jamie focused on creating a product that was portable, flexible and, of course, delicious. She also wanted a business that would give her the flexibility to have more time at home with Charlotte. Not long after, Watermelon Road was born.
Today, Watermelon Road is a thriving all-natural dehydrated fruit company, featuring a host of exciting flavors (“Mango Margarita is the stuff of dreams,” Dallas Strategist Erica Tuscano says…). Pouches are sold online or at a variety of top shops including Dean & Deluca, Eataly, Pure Green, Foragers Market and more. Watermelon Road offers four varieties—Apple Pie, Watermelon Lemonade, Mango Margarita and Pineapple Mojito.
“I just thought that other dehydrated fruits were kind of bland and boring—it was a commoditized space no one was really paying attention to,” Jamie says. “I wanted to make it fun and exciting for moms and kids.”
June marks two years since Watermelon Road launched. “It’s been really fun,” she says. “It’s never quite what you expected it to be like, though. The first six months after I launched, I was never home. I was in a kitchen constantly and it was grueling.” Now, though, operations have been outsourced and Jamie can better balance her fast-growing business.
Right now, Jamie’s counting down to baby girl #2. But before her big arrival, we caught up with Jamie to discuss her decision to stay in the city (and the Hamptons!) and how where she lives inspires her work—plus advice she would give to aspiring mom-preneurs.
When did you decide to move to the Upper West side?
“My husband’s been here for about 20 years maybe and I moved here about eight years ago.”
Why did you decide to call the Upper West Side “home?”
“We just love the Upper West Side—it feels like a real neighborhood. We walk down our block and it’s quiet and tree-lined, and we’re half a block from Central Park. We really think of Central Park as our backyard—it’s right there. It’s also very quiet at night. Overall, we just love it—we can walk down the street, grab dinner with Charlotte, walk to the park. It feels so homey and there’s so much to do with kids. We’re just around the corner from the children’s museum and the JCC has endless kid-friendly activities. We did look in Brooklyn and other neighborhoods and we just didn’t find anywhere that we loved as much as this area—so here we are!”
How does living on the Upper West Side—and the Hamptons—inspire you and your work?
“It absolutely does, in two different ways. Being out in the Hamptons, we actually lived right behind a 60-acre organic community farm. It’s amazing. I literally use it as my grocery store for five months of the year. But the rest of the year is kind of a food desert out there—everything shuts down when it gets cold. So I did a lot of preserving and dehydrating really fresh local ingredients so we can consume throughout the year. As I started, I wanted to make sure what I was making met our city lifestyle—we’re constantly on the go. I needed snacks that were shelf-stable, healthy and that I could throw in a diaper bag or a backpack or a purse. So those two considerations really drove how I preserved foods and, ultimately, what evolved into Watermelon Road.”
What’s one piece of advice would you give aspiring mom-preneurs?
“There’s so much I would say—where do you even start? But I think the biggest thing is to ask for help. Starting a company is a huge undertaking. You are not going to know 100% of the things that you need to know from legal and accounting and finance and branding and marketing—the things you need to successfully launch. So just ask. I found that other women and particularly other entrepreneurs are willing to give their time, advice and expertise to help others along the way. So don’t feel like you’re doing this alone and don’t be afraid to ask people for help. It will only help you and your business.”
Staying in the city? Urban Jungle’s got you covered. Get in touch with an Urban Jungle Strategist to start exploring the best neighborhoods for your family.