A couple of months ago I saw a position advertised for a marketer for a company in Virginia, FERIDIES. I Googled their website and enjoyed reading their story, even though I decided not to apply for the position. I am always fascinated by family businesses – especially ones that thrive for decades.
The Riddick family started refinishing furniture in 1973 in the back of a turn of the century country store and opened a gift shop up front, and the business evolved into what it is today, a seller of all kinds of delicious goodies, from gourmet peanuts and trail mixes to specialty foods. I love peanuts. I actually crave them. I ordered some of the FERIDIES butter toffee peanuts and they were insanely good.
The business started in 1973. Jane’s father, mother and aunt were school teachers and along with Jane’s uncle, a twin to her dad…the four decided to refinish furniture to help supplement their income. They decided to put a gift shop in the front of the building. They needed a person up front to accept furniture while they worked in the back. The gift shop only contained products on consignment. Jane tells the story. “We’re in the heart of Southampton County which, at the time, in 1973 was the largest peanut producing county in the country. We were literally out in the country (We’re about 30 minutes from Suffolk, the nearest town of any size.) and there weren’t a lot of places to get peanuts. You would see a lot of peanut fields but you couldn’t find a place to purchase them. We actually ended up selling a competitor’s peanuts along with peanut butter fudge, peanut brittle, and some other things that local people made. You couldn’t do that today with all of the government regulations.”
They started in a building in downtown Courtland, Virginia, the county seat. Once they started roasting their own peanuts under the name The Peanut Patch, the business really grew.
Jane and her sister grew up and went to college, got married, and moved away. In 2000, their parents called and said they were going to sell the business if the girls didn’t want to come home and run it. The sisters and their husbands decided to quit their jobs and move home and work together. Jane and her husband owned a gift shop in Canaan Valley, West Virginia and Jane’s husband was a ski instructor.
Jane’s Dad passed away ten years ago, but her mother is still very active and still works at their gift shop, The Peanut Patch. The business has changed and evolved over the years. A few years ago they moved from downtown Courtland to Rt. 58 highway because the town was bypassed by a new road and the small town has almost become a ghost town. In 2005 they changed their name and packaging of their brand of peanuts from The Peanut Patch to FERIDIES and in 2007 they built a new manufacturing facility.
It was delightful talking to Jane and learning more about FERIDIES – the name is a combination of several different last names in Jane’s family.If you like not only peanuts but all kinds of gourmet goodies I urge you visit the FERIDIES website. They have gourmet nuts, trail mixes, Virginia ham, cheese straws, sweet potato biscuits, and more. Excellent Christmas gifts and/or business gifts.
THE STANDARD TWENTY QUESTIONS
What is your full name? Jane Riddick-Fries [pronounced freeze]
Where would you live, if you could live anywhere in the world? Extremely tough question.. My husband loves the cold and I love the beach! Neither of us likes to live in the city…although we enjoy visiting large cities and enjoying all they have to offer, we prefer living in the countryside. …less traffic and fresh air. We love to travel and do that as much as possible, but right now, I don’t’ have passion to be anywhere else.
What is your favorite movie and why? I don’t necessarily have a favorite movie but I loved the Lion King…as a movie and on Broadway. The music and story are inspiring.
What was your least-favorite subject in school when you were a kid? Math. I don’t do that part of our business. I do marketing and sales. [laughs]
What was your nickname when you were a kid? “Mouth” when I was in high school. I liked to talk.
Do you believe in God? Yes
What sound or noise do you love? The ocean
If you could do anything other than what you do, as a profession, what would it be? Teach yoga. I’m also a blackbelt in karate so I’d own my own yoga/karate studio. Yoga’s not about judgment. It’s about doing what’s best for your body.
If heaven exists, what do you think it is like? Light, funny, blue and I think it has all of those people that have been in our life, hopefully we all come back together again and enjoy the peace.
Do you have siblings? One sister, 3 years younger, Alice – she handles the catalog and website and retail aspect, direct to consumer side of our business. We are very close. I am fortunate to watch her children grow up.
What is your favorite memory of childhood [something specific]? Going to cut down our own Christmas trees – my dad and a friend had a Christmas tree farm.
If you had to choose between one week traveling around the USA by car, or one week traveling around Europe on a train, which would you choose and why? USA by car. I was on the train this summer to New York, it takes forever – lots of stops.
What inspires you? I teach yoga and for the past two weeks I’ve had a lady in her mid 70’s who’s had a hip replacement and has COPD. When she first came to my class she needed a chair. She came last night and went through the whole class doing what she could. Her courage inspired me. I hope at her age I will still be trying to get down on the floor and do yoga poses. Strong people inspire me. Positive people inspire me.
Which holiday do you prefer, Christmas or July 4th? My business prefers Christmas. Most of our business happens during this time of year. It’s challenging for my family because we work long hours – but I do love Christmas because it’s also family time. July 4th – personally, I get the day off and get to relax!
What project or idea are you most passionate about, right now? I just recently got my yoga certification [to teach] so right now I’m passionate about that.
Do you know how to cook? No – my mom was a home economics teacher and it just about kills her that my sister and I do not cook. But my husband was a former chef so he does all the cooking. It’s something I have no passion and no patience. I like to eat.
What is your favorite thing to cook/eat? My favorite food is crabmeat. I eat peanuts every day, though.
If you could go on vacation anywhere in the world, for 2-4 weeks, all expenses paid, where would you go and why? Italy -- because I’ve never been there. I love different cultures and talking to people with different points of view, and I like warmer weather. I would also visit all of our national parks.
Who do you love the most in the world? My husband – he’s my rock. My family is also my rock.
What question has nobody ever asked you, but you wanted to answer? If you won the million dollar lottery today, what would you do? I think it would be such an awesome feeling to have so much money to share. I would continue to work but also open up my own yoga/karate studio…Yin Yang. I would pay off all my families debt including the business debt and pay for my sisters children’s college. I would donate to Hope For The Warriors, which is an organization that helps injured veterans and their families. (We actually donate a $1.00 from the sale of our 18oz can of Hope for the Warriors salted peanuts to this group who does awesome things and has a 4 star rating. We have family who have served or are still serving in all branches of the military). I would donate to our church as well. My husband and I would travel around the country and the rest of the world. I would put some in savings for retirement and spoil our nieces and nephews.
Right - Jane's entire family