A Different Kind of Jam has Holiday Spirit Year-Round

At A Different Kind of Jam, making preserves is about more than stellar recipes.


Courtesy Colorado Department of Agriculture, Colorado Proud

A Different Kind of Jam’s prep kitchen is abuzz with people. It’s jam-making day, and everyone is chopping, boiling, and stirring pounds of produce to make jam flavors like strawberry champagne, spiced apple, and raspberry jalapeño. For owner Athan Miller, who also owns Jack’s Bar and Grill and Steamers Coffeehouse across the street, there’s magic in watching her staff with developmental disabilities feel confident and accomplished.

Miller has employed developmentally disabled Denverites since the launch of her first business, Steamers Coffeehouse, in 2007, teaching skills through work and daily classes. Since 2010, they’ve been the chefs behind the handmade jams. “Parents tell us this job changes their child’s life,” she says.


  • Miller, a former social worker, was looking for a career change: “I didn’t love the job anymore. So my thenboss and my husband and I bought a small coffee shop as partners. Hiring staff with developmental disabilities, I was able to work with them hands on rather than at a social-work level… But during the first years at Steamers, we didn’t have much work for them: I was looking for a teaching activity. One day, the Boy Scouts brought boxes of peaches to the restaurant and we made jam, which I discovered was the perfect vehicle for learning.”

How it works 

  • “Right now, we have 70 employees with developmental disabilities,” Miller says. “There are three levels to the employment program: The first is for people who don’t have much experience or may need a lot of assistance. They go to school most of the day and work for a couple of hours. On the middle level, people go to school for a few hours and work for a few hours. On the third level, people work the whole day and receive support on the job…. Typically, we have eight to 20 employees making jam with us; they write their names on the jar labels when the jam is done. The rest of the time everyone’s in the restaurant.”

Where to buy it 

  • Find the jam year round at steamerscoffeeshop.com, Miller’s coffeehouse and restaurant, and area specialty stores. This month, look for their gift box and seasonal holiday flavors. “The pretty wooden box fits four flavors of your choice,” Miller says.

Small-batch jam made by people with developmental disabilities
8565 Five Parks Dr., Arvada

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