It took blindness to open his eyes.
That's a truth Troy Karan said he clings to every day as he learns to live with a rare eye disease.
In 2012 the Dover Township man was diagnosed with Stargardt's disease, a degenerative retinal condition that caused him to lose central vision in one eye and see through blind spots in his better eye. But it hasn't sidelined the will or spirit of the 42-year-old runner and cyclist.
"I try to keep a positive attitude. There are a whole lot of people out there living with different things. It's not a 'me' world anymore," Karan said.
Even when the disease forced him to give up his job as a maintenance engineer at a Starbucks roasting plant, he turned it into an opportunity.
Troy Karan and his wife, Sheri, were en route to a vacation in July when they learned he would no longer be able to work.
"Almost immediately, he asked, 'What about those nut butters?'" Sheri said.
The homemade nut butters she made for years to take on their runs would become the new business that sustains their livelihood.
Though at first she wondered who would buy them, she was eventually touched by an outpouring of support for their food company, Blind Spot Nut Butters.
"We didn't just want to live off of disability (income). We wanted to be part of the solution and be able to give back to Foundation Fighting Blindness," Sheri said.
Support: With a lot of help from Troy's father, an engineer for Amtrak, and an equipment donation from Chick-fil-A on Loucks Road, the couple built a commercial kitchen in the garage of their Dover Township home. There they work together through a fairly simple process of grinding nuts, mixing ingredients and spooning the finished product into glass jars.
"Sometimes it is a little frustrating. I can't always read the measurements, and she has to help me with that," Troy said.
But they try to find humor in every mishap. Sheri giggled as she remembered a time when Troy measured an ingredient wrong, causing a recipe to taste a little less than delicious. He sees in shadows and occasionally puts in too much of one ingredient and not enough of another.
"You just start over. Everything can be figured out. You just have to find a way to do it. It's the same way I look at Troy's disease," she said.
Faith: However, there are days when circumstances lower their mood. In those moments they rely on each other and their spiritual faith, Troy said.
"It's in our DNA. We're not quitters. We believe everything happens for a reason," he said.
And because his is a disease that mostly affects children, he focuses on the blessing of sight he had for 40 years. He was able to hold and see his two children grow up to be young adults, he was able to run and ride a bicycle — things a child with the disease might never learn to do, the Karans said.
Their optimism, story and product have captured the retail eye of several York County buyers, including Apple Valley Creamery, Brown's Orchards & Farm Market, Perrydell Farm and Dairy, Shoppe American Made and Sonnewald Natural Foods, and Zombie Runner in California.
For those buyers, Blind Spot Nut Butters is churning out 25 dozen jars every two weeks.
"I never want to be on the shelf of Walmart. I don't need to be huge. I just want it to be where we can give back and be part of something," Sheri said.
Her husband shares the same goal for the business, while also challenging his physical limits and considering riding a bike again.
"I might give it a go. But like UPS or FedEx, I'll just make a lot of right-hand turns," Troy quipped.
—Reach Candy Woodall at firstname.lastname@example.org.