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There are a lot of local difference-makers in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and a lot of Famous Winston-Salemites that have moved out of our great city to do extraordinary things in other places. Along with great people hailing from Winston, there are also a lot of businesses developed here. In Created in Winston, I will focus on these businesses and what Winston means to them.

 

When Thad Wilson (T.W.) and the Garner Family started making barbecue sauce in 1929 in Winston-Salem, they probably never would have imagined their family recipes would be such a hit. Eighty-seven years later, the Garner family is hoping to make more of an imprint on Winston-Salem as they move their corporate offices from 4045 Indiana Avenue to the heart of Downtown Winston at 614 Fourth St. in the second floor of the Nash-Bolick Building.
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A rendering of the Nash-Bolick building

 
T.W. Garner Food Company might be most known for Texas Pete Hot Sauce, but Chief Operating Officer Heyward Garner wants people to know that “the company is working to reinvigorate our name in the community of Winston-Salem.” Garner said, “it is time to step-up to 2016 and maintain a fresh image, while being a part of the phenomenal revitalization of Downtown.” Their current operations are on Indiana Avenue and were originally part of the family farmland. 
It just so happens that the Nash-Bolick Building was built the same year that the Garner family started their company in 1929.  The building originated as a car dealership for the Nash Automobile Company. That same year, Wilson started T.W. Garner and employed several of his siblings and his parents, who are the great-grandparents of Heyward. The business started out of the Dixie Pig Barbecue stand on Liberty Street, where the Smith-Reynolds airport is today.

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In the 1930’s, the company moved to the Lawrence Hospital, which is currently the Rescue Mission. During that time they bulldozed their farm and built their original factory space on Indiana Avenue, which the company moved back to in 1942 (they have added on three times in the last sixty-plus years).
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Photo courtesy of texaspete.com

When the family first started with barbecue sauce, hot sauce was not part of their vocabulary. Customers were asking for a hotter sauce and the family developed a hotter style sauce, which they named Texas Pete to differentiate it from their barbecue sauce. In the early years, they also made syrups, jams, jellies, and even Garner’s Hair Tonic. “I never saw the hair tonic, but I don’t think it is a joke,” said Heyward. 
Through the last nine decades, T.W. Garner has always been a family-run business. After Wilson, Heyward’s dad, Reg Garner, took over the company in 1994. He had control of the business until he passed away in 2009, and his sister Ann Riddle took over as Chief Executive. She is currently the only third generation Garner still actively working, while her cousins Hal Garner and Frank Sherrill, still are on the board.
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Photo courtesy of texaspete.com

There are currently several fourth generation family members working in the company. Heyward’s brother-in-law (married to Dorothea), Matt McCollum, is the Chief Financial Officer,  and their cousin, Glenn Garner is also a part of the administration.
A major part of the new image of the company is the move downtown and focusing on the brand-name, Garner Foods. “If you talk about only Texas Pete then you are only talking about half of our business,” said Heyward. “We want to let the area know about Garner Foods. Today if you walk around here, nobody knows about us. I am on a personal crusade to get our name out there.” The company also purchased Green Mountain Gringo out of Vermont in 2004, which makes salsas and tortilla strips.
Three years ago, T.W. Garner started the Texas Pete Culinary Arts Festival on Trade Street, and they are thrilled with its growth and the upcoming September festival. The company is also involved with the local Habitat for Humanity, Arts Council, and Second Harvest Food Bank. Heyward said, “our community involvement is understated. We have a lot of great stuff going on.”
The family hopes to be moved into the Nash-Bolick building within a month or two. The building will feature offices for the finance, accounting and executive staff; a war room, a board room, an outdoor patio, and a demo kitchen. The demo kitchen is an addition to the old building and will be used to bring in customers to sample the Garner Food products, and will also be visible to all on Fourth Street with a glass front. “It will give outsiders a peak behind the curtain, Willy Wonka style,” said Heyward. 
The move has been four years in the making. They looked at over twenty properties, and really focused on three of them before making their final decision. “We were sitting on top of each other on Indiana Avenue, but we had been doing that for years,” said Heyward. “I personally love that we get sunlight in all places since there is a cut-out in the middle of the new building.”
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Sam Garner (photo courtesy of texaspete.com)

Sixty-five employees in the operations department will remain in the Indiana Avenue facility and the company also employs fifteen sales staff that live and work in their territories. “This building is part of our effort to step up community relations. We want the community to be involved and know we have been here since 1929,” Garner reaffirmed. “This is also for our employees who all rock. We look forward to letting them walk to work and enjoy the Downtown restaurants.” 

 

Do you know somebody that goes out of their way in Winston-Salem to be extra nice and helpful? If so read my Winston Giveback: Unsung Heroes post to see how to nominate this person by September 15, 2016. Click here for nomination

 

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3 thoughts on “Garner Foods: Created in Winston

  1. The Lord blessed me to know these wonderful people once upon a time. I was only 18,and a bit rough around the edges,but without a second thought,they treated me like family! It was amazing to hear this story coming from Heywards’ grandfather,they only see the pictures as he painted them back to life! I only met him that one time at the factory, but he remembered me and asked about me! Such a wonderful man. And Reg was a light that shone brightly and touched the lives of everyone he knew! Any time I was at their house,both his parents simply talked with me,about everything,about nothing,it didn’t matter because I just enjoyed their company! I never could eat anything hot or spicy,but they would ask my honest opinion on other things as well as advertisement,etc. BTW this would come from Heyward and Dot (Dorothea)as well! The reason why they have lasted for so long;the reason why their products are so very good and every changing,yet still the same, is because THEY CARE! They care about their products from start to finish,beginning with why they need that product to begin with. The answer ,I am certain is still,because we asked for it! Therefore,every ounce of blood,sweat,tears but above all LOVE goes into every bottle,can,bag,etc. I met Tiffany (Heywards wife) at a movie theatre,where she helped to convince the manager to hire me. Not long afterwards,I finally met Heyward face to face (up until then it had only been through email and im) we were to go to Myrtle Beach with some more friends ,but we were staying the night over so we could get a fresh start. Dot was home that night,and it was my first time meeting her. She was leaving to go to an art ranch where she could learn some new techniques. She was and is one of the most AMAZING artist/craftsman you’ve ever seen! But it was amazing talking deep into the night with her and Tiffany. It was as if we had grown up together! And little Elizabeth,both sisters being so beautiful,but she was just so adorable and “grown up”,and ways sulking on the stairs because she wanted to “hang out” as well. And she would tell you!”If you see me writing with my green coloured pencil,it means I’m mad at you right now,so don’t talk to me!”lol But she always talked to us,because we wanted her around! We went on 2 beach trips together,where we all seriously contemplated moving to the beach ( ironically I now actually DO live at the beach!) But I got to know these crazy wonderful friendly loyal dedicated hard working people! I even had the opportunity to work with Matt for a couple of weeks in those first days at one of the other theatres. I think I would have gone mad over there from boredom (and a few other things)had it not been for him and his constant smile and good vibes! He was great at making us laugh to ease the tension,while at the same time handling his job as Asst.Manager with great poise and know how! I loved working in projection with Heyward,whom naturally was put over it. But he still had to work unbelievably hard to get to that point,and harder still to keep it since not everyone had the same work ethic. But he was incredibly smart when it came to putting certain systems in order so that the rest of us would always be able to keep each other updated and basically,one step ahead (so long as you did your job,,which he had made that much more efficient) By that time,Tiffany had become an Asst.Manager there,yet they managed to keep their private and professional lives separate,which was admirable. Even Matt would drop by quite often, but instead of sitting around doing nothing,he would help string up and start movies, count till,etc. You just knew that they would always be great together! Even though we drifted apart,as people do when they start families of their own, I know we are still friends (otherwise we wouldn’t have them on Facebook lol) But I will ALWAYS be grateful to ALL the Garners and McCallums for choosing to be in my life, and especially for being there in a time when I needed friends the most! It’s important for me to share this with others,so that you may know just how good and decent and down to earth they are. How they will never think they are better than anyone,rather they are always willing to walk a mile in your shoes. And chances are ,they already have! So I encourage everyone,if you see an event with T.W. GARNER attached to it ,please support it! If you enjoy ANY products that are made also by GARNER FOODS, please try them and know you are getting only the best! If you have ideas or questions or suggestions, then you can trust that they will reach them and they will take them seriously! If you get a chance to meet anyone in the family,then God bless you! And to you Garner/McCallum family,if you ever read this, THANK YOU! You were a light in a dark place for me,and you helped me to see that there is good in everyone! I miss you like crazy,but I’m so very happy for you and all that God has blessed you with ! You will always be in my heart and my prayers,day and night! I love you all! Love,Abbi

  2. Pingback: Around Town :: September 16 – 18, 2016 – Townies

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