The Story of Texas Pete: Born in the Appalachians, not Texas

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Throughout most of my life, I have held a great affinity for hot sauce — specifically for the 12-ounce bottles of the bright red liquid known as “Texas Pete”.

Though my wife has evolved into a great cook, in the early years of our marriage, I was fortunate enough to have discovered that Texas Pete makes otherwise unpalatable food actually taste good and good food taste great!

Today, you won’t ever catch me eating eggs, hot dogs, steaks, pizzas, or even a baked potato without the incredibly awesome cayenne-pepper hot sauce.

Growing up in the mountains of Southwest Virginia, I always assumed two things about Texas Pete:

#1.) That it came from Texas… I imagine that I wasn’t alone on this one!

#2.) “Texas Pete” is a household product known throughout the United States.

One evening, I arrived just outside of Erie, Pennsylvania, where I’d be staying for a few days in a hotel and as is my custom, I made a quick trip to the local grocery store for a week’s worth of “bachelor food”.  Of course, at the top of my list was Texas Pete.

“Excuse me, mam, where is your Texas Pete?” I asked the lady working in the grocery store, to which she [trying not to “LOL” in my face] responded, “Texas Pete?  Is that even a real product or are you just joking with me?”

An older worker who was passing by overheard our conversation, to which he interjected, “I know what it is, follow me sir…”

As we walked through the grocery store, I soon found myself standing in front of a giant freezer looking at “Texas Toast”.

Long story short — he had no idea what I was talking about either and neither did anyone else in the store!

Indeed, being such a huge fan of Texas Pete, I have come to realize that there are a number of misconceptions concerning this product.

To understand the true story of Texas Pete, you’ll have to take a trip back to the year 1929…  Not to Texas, but to Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

According to the company, legend has it that, when Sam Garner and his three sons were trying to come up with a brand name for the spicy new sauce they had created, a marketing advisor suggested the product be named “Mexican Joe”.

The marketer believed that “Mexican Joe” would connote the piquant flavor reminiscent of the favorite foods of our neighbors to the south.

Sam Garner was opposed to the marketer’s suggestion, stating, “It’s got to have an American name!” Sam suggested they move across the border to Texas, which also had a reputation for spicy cuisine. Then he glanced at son Harold, whose nickname was “Pete” and the Texas Pete cowboy was born. Movie cowboys were very popular in the 1930’s, men like Tom Mix and Hopalong Cassidy, representing a sort of universal image of rugged independence and self-reliance, the perfect ideal for a family business trying to survive tough times.

In the years ahead, the brothers would incorporate their business following World War II into T.W. Garner Food Company, as it is known today.

Though the company and its many products continue to change, two things have remained unchanged — they still produce Texas Pete and they’re doing it in North Carolina!

“The current factory, built in 1942 and added onto too many times to count, sits on the original Garner family home site in northwest Winston-Salem. And the legendary Texas Pete, proud of his cowboy heritage but also a proud North Carolinian, continues to thrive!”

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