Texas Pete Entrepreneurship

The Sauce that Took a Family from Rags to Riches

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Texas Pete is a name known around the country, especially for their trademark Hot Sauce. Most people would assume that Texas Pete was born in, well Texas, not so, it was actually founded in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Like many new enterprises, Texas Pete was started as a family-run business to get through the hard times during the Great Depression. Fast forward to today and Texas Pete has now become the hot sauce of choice in many American households.

Bringing a Little Bit of Mexico to North Carolina

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After one of Sam Garner’s sons purchased a nearby barbecue restaurant, included the famous sauce recipe, the new challenge was to come up with a name. Their marketing advisor suggested “Mexican Joe” due to the flavors that were reminiscent of Mexico, but the family wanted a more American name for the brand. They chose Texas since it was close to the American border of Mexico, and Pete as that was one of Garner’s son’s names. The cowboy themed icon was added due to the popularity of western movies at the time.

A Family that Cooks Together, Stays Together

This family business started out with the entire family on board helping out in the kitchen to create these sauces. Eventually Garner’s three daughters married and moved on with their own separate careers. In 1942, the family built their first factory in Winston-Salem and by 1946, T.W. Garner Food Company was officially formed. The company produced their own jams, jellies, horseradishes; and, of course, their Texas Pete brand, which expanded to include hot dog chili, honey mustard, seafood cocktail, and more. It has remained a family-oriented business through the years as lots of the newer generations have gone on to work for the company.

Bringing the Community Together

Stemming from their family values, the company remains community oriented. In 2014, the company started the Texas Pete Culinary Arts Festival, a food festival that occurs approximately every September, showcasing some different chefs in the Winston-Salem Arts District.

They have a contract with the U.S. Military which made Texas Pete available on all operating U.S. Naval Ships.

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Ann Garner Riddle – third generation member of Garner management and current chief executive and president since 2010 –  has publicly expressed the level of connection she has created with some fans of the brand. “I have one little friend that I sent stickers or something about a year ago. And he writes to me every now and again and says, ‘I love Texas Pete! I still love it!’ And I write him back and I say, ‘It’s good to hear from you! Happy day! You made me smile!’ Just silly things . . . I just enjoy writing back and forth with him.”

In 2016, headquarters moved to the Nash-Bolich building in downtown Winston-Salem in an effort to deepen their community involvement and revitalize Fourth Street and the surrounding area.

The Future of Texas Pete

Looking into the future, there are talks of creating a test kitchen where company officials will work with restaurant chefs, cooks, grocery stores to incorporate Texas Pete and Garner Food products into their recipes. Already, Lowes Foods has fused Texas Pete flavors into the Sausage Works deli department and Publix offers deli meat with extra mild Texas Pete flavorings. Passersby can even watch dishes being created at the headquarters location, which Glenn Garner, chief marketing officer and fourth generation member of management, compares to the Willy Wonka factory.

The company remains interested in repurposing old buildings and being part of a neighborhood with good visibility. They hope to raise a community profile and attract and hire future corporate employees through making the community aware of their presence in the area.