The small town of Sedley is in the coastal plain of Virginia, about an hour’s drive from Virginia Beach. With loamy soil and a humid climate, it’s prime for peanut farming. In midsummer, tiny yellow flowers blossom on peanut vines, putting down root-like pegs in the soil where legumes grow. Many refer to the area as “peanut country.” Hubs Peanuts—best known for their jumbo-sized Virginia goobers—is headquartered here.
Lynne Rabil of Hubs Peanuts
Husband and wife HJ and Dot Hubbard launched the peanut brand from their Sedley home in 1954. Hubs still operates out of the same house today, though some things have changed. For instance, Dot’s daughter, Lynne Rabil, converted her childhood bedroom into an office, where she works as CEO of the company. Dot’s original kitchen has also expanded to accommodate a team of more than 30 employees, some of whom have been with Hubs for over forty years. But Dot’s values remain integral to the company’s core.
Marshall Rabil, Hubs’ Director of Sales and Marketing and grandson of Dot and HJ, says his grandparents’ attention to detail guides every department, from the kitchen to the office to customer service. “Every little detail mattered to my grandparents,” he says, “and that’s something we continue through our culture today.”
Marshall Rabil of Hubs Peanuts
Long before working from home was commonplace, Dot found a way to make some extra money with the crop she’d grown up with: peanuts. She selected the plumpest peanuts she could find on her father’s farm, just as she’d done as a girl. After skinning them by hand at home, she blanched them in scorching water before tossing the peanuts in a frying pan with salt and oil until golden brown. Evolving from the old-fashioned method of canning vegetables, the cooking technique she’d learned growing up was unconventional. Dry roasting peanuts in the oven was standard preparation. Dot’s unique process—now coined blister-fried—led to crunchier, flavorful peanuts that quickly caught the attention of the community.
HJ began delivering Dot’s peanuts to local pharmacies, shops, and neighbors, and a mail-order business was born out of their home. Soon, Dot couldn’t keep up with the demand. She outsourced the skinning to neighbors, mostly women, in the community. Meanwhile, HJ began working with local engineers to invent a continuous blancher and roaster that could withstand greater volume.
Nowadays, Hubs’ peanuts are still blister-fried, just on a larger scale. “Every batch is still hand-cooked, and we monitor the times and temperatures carefully to maintain a consistent roast,” says Marshall. Hubs continues to package only the top one percent of peanuts, another one of Dot’s standards that carries the brand today.
“The USDA didn’t have a grade for the type of peanuts Dot used. Now they’re called ‘XXL’ or ‘Super Extra Large,’” Marshall says.
The industry credits Dot with commercializing blister-fried peanuts, and The American Peanut Council recently honored her with the Lifetime Achievement Award for creating the specialty peanut category. “Many companies developed a brand using this method. We are the proud founders of the category,” says Marshall.
Dot & HJ Hubbard
Coming out of the depression era with a family to feed and minimal resources, Dot’s story serves as an inspiration for women entrepreneurs more than seventy years later. “We’re proud to have a woman founder,” says Marshall.
Written by Daniela Johnson