The Peanut Patch keeps its flavor 40 years laterPublished 11:20am Wednesday, August 21, 2013
COURTLAND—What was first supposed to be a moonlighting business of stripping furniture and restoring antiques took an unusual turn for a quartet of people and became The Peanut Patch, which observes its 40th anniversary this year.
A celebration was held this past Wednesday at the shop in Courtland with three of the founders, their families, coworkers, friends and visiting dignitaries during the monthly Business After Hours, which is sponsored by the Franklin-Southampton Chamber of Commerce.
During the party, Judy Riddick explained how she and her husband, the late Bob Riddick, along with his twin brother, Bill, and his wife, Gaynelle, were looking for ways to make extra income.
“My husband and Gaynelle both taught school, and you know teachers didn’t make a lot of money then,” Judy Riddick said, adding that Bill worked then at Union Camp.
They came up with the furniture business idea, and worked out of a place across from the post office in downtown Courtland.
Bill Riddick remembered there were a few methods to strip furniture that could involve heat, cold and chemicals. All were hard work, he and Gaynelle added.
The two pairs saw an added opportunity to sell peanuts, a product grown in abundance within Southampton County.
They had noticed there was really no place where one could go to buy them retail. This became successful, and later they began to prepare the peanuts their own way.
Judy Riddick and Gaynelle Riddick said a friend, Pat Hutt, gave the name The Peanut Patch.
That was Aug. 15, 1973. Today, the company distributes a wide variety of peanuts, nut-based snacks and gifts on both a national and international level.
The original location, like the furniture work, was left behind quite some time ago.
With the new four-lane Route 58 completed locally almost 20 years ago, Courtland was bypassed.
“It was close or move,” said Judy Riddick about why the foursome chose to relocate the business in March 1994. “It’s just great that we have been able to stay in business and expand.”
Creating a new manufacturing facility on Southampton Parkway in 2007 has been one reason how the store has thrived, she continued. The other is family.
Judy’s daughters, Jane Riddick-Fries and Alice Shaffer, along with their respective husbands, Ted and Paul, came back and expanded the peanut end of the business.
Michael Clark, past Chamber president, praised The Peanut Patch’s founders and employees for what they contribute to the local economy.
“More entrepreneurship is needed here,” said Clark.
“Does this business have an effect on this community? You bet,” said Southampton County Supervisor Ronnie West, who gave his personal thanks, and likened the business to an ambassador for the region.
Southampton County Administrator Mike Johnson noted how the place began with a single-line telephone and today has a website.
“Feridies (the brand name for its products) is consistently in the top 10 of non-governmental employees in Southampton County,” Johnson said. “The economic impact in 40 years has been monumental.”
In case you’re wondering, the Feridies name comes from parts of each family member’s last names: Alice and Paul ShafFER, Judy and Bob RIDdick, Jane and Ted FrIES.
Johnson added that the company hasn’t been all about business, but also includes benevolence of supporting local organizations, such as partnership with Mustang Football and Hopeful Warriors.
“It’s all about giving back,” Johnson continued. “Thank you for the jobs you created, exporting a marketing product around the globe, the commitment to excel and the confidence you’ve shown in us by staying.”
Robin Buck, senior project manager for Virginia Agriculture and Forestry Development Services, was another guest.
“Feridies is made up of not just business people, but also leaders and advocates,” said Buck. “They’re mentors in specialty foods.”
After letters of congratulations from Congressman Randy Forbes and Gov. Bob McDonnell were read, Judy Riddick was given the last word.
“Thanks to all for helping us reach a milestone,” she said, adding the names of her loved ones. “Your father would be so proud of you.”