WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- She runs a company with a simple mission statement: “we make cooking and eating cool with products that are hot.”
For the last 45 years, Ann Garner Riddle has worked for the family business, Garner Foods (formerly the TW Garner Food Company) in Winston-Salem. Today, as CEO, she oversees an operation in which 106 employees turn out its signature product, Texas Pete Hot Sauce, along with several variations of that sauce.
These variations include honey mustard, buffalo wing sauce, and its newest offerings, “Cha” and “Sabor!”
“We look a whole lot bigger than we are because our brand is very well known,” Riddle said during an interview. “I think our ancestors would be very pleased with where we are and what we’re doing.”
Those ancestors include Riddle’s uncle, Thad Garner. In 1929, at the age of 16, he bought a small barbecue stand on Liberty Street and its barbecue sauce recipe.
Thad’s father, Sam, would later start peddling that sauce statewide. And before long, Sam, along with his three sons Ralph (Ann’s father), Harold and Thad, would join forces to create a successful food business.
“The name ‘Texas Pete’ came when we had a customer who asked if we could make our barbecue sauce hotter,” said Riddle. “And the family said, ‘why don’t we make another product.’”
“So they were trying to figure out a name for that product and somebody suggested ‘Mexican Joe’ because Mexican food’s hot and spicy. And Granddaddy said, ‘I’d rather have an American name.’”
So the Garners settled on “Texas.” The name “Pete” came from Ann’s uncle Harold. His nickname happened to be “Pete.”
Within the last few months, Garner Foods reached another milestone. It moved its corporate headquarters from the factory on Indiana Avenue in North Winston-Salem to a building that used to house a business college on Fourth Street downtown.
“We moved our headquarters downtown because we wanted part of our business to be located where the heart of Winston-Salem is and the growth and the rejuvenation, if you will,” Riddle said.
In addition to offices, the 15,000 square foot headquarters features a brand new, fully-functioning kitchen. The company plans to use this to host clients and show them how to incorporate Garner products into their own menus and offerings.
In the meantime, the plant a few miles away still churns out multiple products including that original sauce that has solid family roots in Winston-Salem even through the name “Texas” is on the label.
For more information on Garner Foods including recipes, click here.