Southern Classic owner shares insight into diverse company

Published 8:24 am Friday, February 3, 2012

For those who have wondered how many sandwiches can be made from 3,000 pounds of mayonnaise, Chuck Caraway has a ready and quick answer.

“Fifty-thousand sandwiches.”

And that’s with two tablespoons of mayonnaise per sandwich. One for each slice of bread.

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Caraway, owner of Southern Classic Foods in Brundidge, was the guest speaker at the Brundidge Rotary Club Wednesday and he laughingly said he brought along his arrowhead collection.

Caraway grew up in the vicinity of Hobdy’s Bridge, which is known has a hotbed for Indian artifacts, especially arrowheads. But Caraway’s “collection” was a sampling of more than 500 formulas mixed, cooked and packaged at Southern Classic Foods.

Brundidge has been the home of food manufacturing plants since the late 1920s, when the J.D. Johnston family’s mill began making peanut butter commercially.

“For 60-plus years, salad dressings, sauces, mayonnaise and mustard have been made in Brundidge,” Caraway said. “At Southern Classic Foods, we are continuing that line of products but we are also making products not customarily done by our predecessors.”

Caraway said Southern Classic Foods manufactures a line of food service products, industrial products, contract customer and specialty products.

“We have been blessed with good customers,” Caraway said. “We opened 11 years ago and we have expanded and continued to grow. We employ 140 people in our 145,000-square foot facility with growth potential to 240,000-square-feet. There has been nothing to interrupt the future of that footprint.”

Southern Classic Foods is SQF certified. SQF (Safe Quality Food) certification assures buyers and customers that the food manufactured at a plant has been produced, processed and handled according to the highest standards.

SQF certification gets buyers in the door and then we do the rest,” he said. “We set our standards high.”

When working with such an enormous volume of products, Caraway said everything must be done to the letter.

“We handle tons of agricultural products and most of them are grown right here in the United States,” he said. “Having grown up on a farm, that makes me proud.”

And, Caraway is proud to be “in business” in Brundidge.

He is very involved in the city business organization and in community events. He recently took the reins of the Brundidge Business Association and will lead by example as he continues to invest in the future of his company and the community.

“By the end of the year, we will move our administrative offices from the old Russell building to the plant on the north side of town,” Caraway said. “We are looking at the possibility of using the that building as a site for incubator businesses.”

While Caraway is taking care of his business, as president of the BBA, he will also be working toward attracting new businesses to Brundidge and expanding the activities and events of the BBA.

The BBA sponsors the Miss/Little Miss Brundidge pageant in March, SpringFest in May, the Independence Day Parade in June and the Christmas Parade and Lighting ceremony in early December.

“We always welcome new members and really appreciate ideas on ways to improve what we are doing,” Caraway said.

Dues are $35 for businesses and $15 for individual memberships.