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Blue Smoke Salsa owner gets financial backing

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - After years of challenges, Fayette County-based Blue Smoke Salsa has received the backing it needs, said founder Robin Hildebrand-Hannigan.

"I feel like a new person," she said. "I feel God has looked down on Blue Smoke Salsa, Ansted and the state of West Virginia and smiled."

An agreement has been signed for the assets of Blue Smoke Salsa, Inc., to be sold to the Gum family, owners of White House Foods of Winchester, Va.

Blue Smoke products will still be manufactured in Ansted where the retail shop is also located. Hildebrand-Hannigan will remain president of Blue Smoke operations. The deal is to be finalized within 45 days.

Hildebrand-Hannigan, who expects business to grow substantially with the switch, is relieved that she will have time to travel and promote products.

"The plant in Ansted will run at full capacity," she said. "We will keep the staff we have and employ more people. It's a heartwarming story of hanging in there and turning challenges into great opportunities. They bought the assets and will maintain the equipment and the building. I will be leader and president."

John Yates will serve as plant manager while she focuses upon marketing and sales.

She sees similarities between Blue Smoke and White House Foods.

"The parent company of White House is National Fruit Product Co. They pride themselves in growing their own produce. They have orchards."

She said both companies believe in promoting healthy eating through their products.

She started Blue Smoke in the basement of her home in 1993 and the business grew rapidly for several years. In August of 2011, she announced that Blue Smoke would close in October because the business had fallen victim to the economy.

At the time she said foot traffic had slowed to her store at 119 E. Main St. in Ansted. Prices for ingredients had skyrocketed along with the cost of supplies and shipping. Additional business expenses included running a website, purchasing equipment, building renovations and inventory.

She needed time to build national accounts by traveling to other states where she could compete by letting folks taste products. That was not possible because her time was consumed with day-to-day operations.

To stay in business, she was granted one extension on loans and then forced to ask for another. She said lenders had been generous but they were simply unable to extend her loans.

She was on an emotional roller coaster. She prayed for a miracle.

Hundreds of postings appeared on Facebook from folks asking her not to leave and politicians also went to bat for her. She went to more meetings with lenders and loan extensions were granted.

The retail market closed for a few months but production continued so that Blue Smoke products could be purchased online as well as at various outlets.

She feels the latest turn of events will help business soar. Plans are in the works for additional packaging, from single-serve sizes to large gallon containers suitable for restaurants. 

The Blue Smoke Salsa retail store at 119 E. Main St. in Ansted is now open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Production days are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.   

For more information, go to www.bluesmokesalsa.com or call 304-658-3800.

Contact writer Charlotte Ferrell Smith at charlotte@dailymail.com or 304-348-1246.


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