The Winston-Salem company that's known for making Texas Pete hot sauce started in 1929 as a Liberty Street gas-and-barbecue joint called Dixie Pig. That same year, the Nash-Boling Building was being built on Fourth Street.
Now, those two histories are coming together. The company – T.W. Garner is preparing to move its headquarters into the building. It's part of a strategy to boost its presence downtown – a strategy that also includes this weekend's Texas Pete Culinary Arts Festival.
Chief Operating Officer Heyward Garner recently gave WFDD a tour of T.W. Garner's Indiana Avenue plant.
“That's going to be our Cha, our Texas Pete Siracha product,” he says, as empty jars clink while bustling through a production line. “That's going to be our salsa - our Green Mountain Gringo Salsa. That's going to be our wing sauce. In the back we have two production lines that are dedicated to hot sauce production.”
Garner says a move downtown may help the company expand those offerings. The production will stay at the plant, but the new location on Fourth Street – in the same historic building that also houses Foothills Brewery – will include an expanded test kitchen. Garner says it's a way to get creative with restaurant groups and others who use the company's products.
“We're looking for new and unique ways to use our products, but we can work with our customers to see what they're looking for,” he says. “So they might turn us on to something we haven't even considered or thought about.”
The move is also a chance to reconnect with a lost part of the company's past.
Ann Garner Riddle is president of the company, where she has worked for 43 years. She says that in the years between the Great Depression and the end of the Second World War, the family relocated from Liberty Street to Oak Street. Eventually it all moved to the plant on Indiana Avenue.
Texas Pete wasn't the first product the company made – it first started with a mustard-based barbecue sauce. The hot sauce came from a suggestion of a customer who said they should make something hotter. Eventually the company also branched out into other products including jams, jellies – even a short-lived hair tonic.
Riddle says the plant where they were made is also steeped in family history.
“This was my granddaddy's land. He owned a lot of land around here and he sold off most of it during the great depression to support his family,” she says. “There were seven children and two adults – but he kept this part.”
She says the headquarters move will put the company closer to downtown restaurants and some of the hottest chefs in the area. But it's not the company's first push into the downtown scene.
Last year, T.W. Garner took over the city's culinary arts festival. This year's three-day festival begins Friday.
Heyward Garner says he's hoping the festival and the headquarters relocation will help the company build momentum.
“I think there's a vibe for sure,” he says. “We want to feed on the interest and the culture that exists in the downtown space.”
The festival includes live music in addition to food from various local restaurants. As for the headquarters move, that's expected to happen next year.