The American Dream Realized
Who would have thought that a young boy growing up in Alton, Illinois, would one day be known as Sir Charles, creator of gourmet barbecue sauces often described as the “Champagne of Sauces”? In 1987, Sir Charles Shepperd graduated from Western Culinary Institute in Portland, Oregon — having earned a degree in Culinary Arts — and created the recipes for his four famous barbecue sauces. Sir Charles then moved to St. Louis, where he met and married the woman of his dreams, Carmencita. They have been married for sixteen years, during which they started the family business, Sir Charles Gourmet BBQ Sauce. In 2007, Sir Charles and Carmencita attended the Black Theater Festival in Winston-Salem and were so delighted by the friendliness of the people, that they decided to permanently relocate. Carmencita was able to transfer her job to Greensboro, but soon found herself working full time on the sauce making business that she and Sir Charles began in 2008. Shortly after the Shepperds moved to North Carolina, they met Josie Kite, the owner of Angels Aprons Etc., who introduced them to the GSO Farmers Curb Market. After several years of hard work, Sir Charles and Carmen acquired a cherished spot at the Market and have been serving samples of their tasty barbecue sauces on Saturdays for the past three years. The Shepperds have gained success, but it is not just luck. Rather, it is strategic thinking and the use of marketing strategies such as their decision to become a member of Triad Local First (TLF). TLF is a non-profit membership organization based in Greensboro with more than 260 members — retail shops, real estate agents, insurance brokers, marketing and advertising firms, accountants, dentists, restaurants, farmers, breweries, and more. As a TLF member, Sir Charles and Carmencita participated in the 2013 Community Table Event, where they met the owners of Fleet Plummer and developed a lasting partnership that allows for Sir Charles Gourmet BBQ Sauce to be sold there. Their participation in City Market, an open air urban market at the Railyard off South Elm Street in downtown Greensboro, has also been a connector with other businesses in the area.
Sir Charles and Queen Carmen can be found promoting their product at state fairs and other events through North and South Carolina as well. Recently, their Habanero sauce won first place at the Oxford County Fair! Operating a small business has never been easy, but recently it became almost impossible as the Shepperds faced one of the greatest challenges of their lives. On September 29, 2013, Sir Charles had a massive heart attack, requiring triple bypass surgery. Carmencita became his primary caregiver and they were forced to downsize production at their company. After a few months of recuperation they have almost restored full-scale production of the sauces, which yields around 125 cases per week. The Shepperds’ commitment to the “buy local” movement is apparent from their day-to-day business practices. All purchases are sourced from local vendors in the Triad. Spices come from Savory Spices in Greensboro, bottles from Inmark Bottling Co., other products from Chefmart in Winston-Salem, and the sauce is prepared and bottled at a state kitchen in Wentworth. The Shepperds’ story and way of running their business is the exemplification of the mission of Triad Local First. Not only is Triad Local First honored to partner with Sir Charles and Carmencita, but they are presenting Sir Charles Gourmet BBQ Sauce with the Triad Local First Independent Business of the Year Award at the Annual Community Table in October. For more information on this event, visit www.triadlocalfirst.com.