Meet the Maker: FERIDIES Virginia Peanuts
, by Erin Byers Murray
, by Erin Byers Murray
As well-known as FERIDIES peanuts are today, they didn’t actually start as a peanut company: In 1973, the Peanut Patch, as it was originally known, was an antique furniture refinishing business with a gift shop attached set along Main Street in Courtland, Virginia, the heart of peanut country. Being that the area was well-known for its goobers, the shop started selling packages of them. Within a few years, they decided to package and sell their own brand of extra-large, Virginia-style peanuts and set themselves apart by cooking theirs in pure peanut oil, amping up the nutty, crunchy flavor.
While the business was opened by two twin brothers, it was Judy Riddick, one of their wives, who ran the show. As the company grew, Riddick brought her two daughters and their husbands in to assist in managing the business. Soon, their award-winning peanuts were gaining notoriety outside of Virginia and the team was selling them through a catalogue and later website, as well as through their wholesale business. Having grown out of their space on Main Street in 1994, they moved outside of town to the Route 58 Bypass, where they continued to manufacture, package, and ship their peanuts worldwide from the back of their small shop. As interest in their product grew, so too did their product line—they added new flavors as well as other snacks and snack mixes. In 2007, the expanded again, this time opening a manufacturing facility a mile away, while keeping the well-situated gift shop in operation. By then, the Virginia peanut scene was booming, so the team decided to rebrand from the Peanut Patch to FERIDIES, a blend of the family members’ last names.
Along the way, they built a dedicated team of employees who have stayed loyal to the company for years. Although Riddick recently retired and the business is now in the care of locally based the Gerard Group, the company’s core employees carry on the FERIDIES’ dedication to delivering the perfect Virginia-style peanut. Sales manager Courtney Martin notes that many staffers have been there for decades, like their kitchen production manager who oversees all of the cooking who has a tenure of more than 25 years; Martin has been there for 11 years herself. “It’s like a family to me,” she says. “To a lot of us. We’re still running the day-to-day to make sure things always stay on track.” The peanuts are still cooked in the signature peanut oil and each batch is hand-roasted, dropped in baskets into the oil, and packaged by hand.
Because of their dedication to excellence, the team remains deeply ingrained in the process, including anytime they add new products. When the team comes up with a new flavor, everyone on staff is tasked with taste testing and offering feedback—suggesting varying spice levels or adding their input—before the flavor is launched. And they all weigh in on naming the product, too. “It’s a really fun process,” Martin says.
They carry at least 40 different products at any given time, with their Salted Peanuts as well as the 5 O Clock Crunch, a snack mix of honey roasted peanuts, cheddar crackers, and chile-lime corn sticks, remaining perennial favorites. Customers come to them looking for both nostalgia—to drop peanuts into their Coke bottles, for example—and excellent quality. Look for their newest flavors like Roasted Garlic and Salt and Vinegar, plus a few new snack mixes, which will be available later this year.
For Martin and the rest of the team, it’s the legacy that remains top of mind. “We’re still doing it the same way,” she says. And you can taste it in every can.