The new owners of Appalachian Mountain Specialty Foods in Spencer build on a line of favorite flavors.
Veronica Stover was devastated when she heard Steve and Marialice Seaman, who started Appalachian Mountain Specialty Foods more than two decades ago, were retiring.
A 15-year customer, Stover appreciated the traditional Appalachian flavors—and the associated memories—the Seamans brought to their sauces and mixes. “It’s such a quality product,” she says. “It’s part of our heritage, and it’s something to be proud of here in West Virginia.” She and her husband, Greg, approached the couple about buying the business.
In 2013, the Stovers acquired the business and helped it thrive, even while Veronica battled cancer. They invested in a manufacturing facility in Spencer and continued the Seamans’ tradition. Once Veronica’s cancer went into remission, she and Greg decided to invent some Appalachia-inspired recipes of their own to add to the product line. zestsauce.com
Mix it up
Inspiration through stories
One of their first creations, Uncle Roy’s Old Fashioned Ramp Dressing, is named for Greg’s uncle, who took him fishing at Anthony’s Creek in Pocahontas County. After reeling in their haul, the duo dug ramps and grilled them in foil packets with the trout. Copperhead Bloody Mary Mix, created when Veronica was looking for something “with a little more bite,” was so named when her son Skylar was bit by a copperhead. Veronica says he now jokes about “taking one for the team.”
A personal touch
From a 40-gallon stockpot, then a smaller dispensing container, Veronica carefully funnels the mixes into each bottle. After filling, they’re capped, labeled, dated, and boxed—all by hand. Their family helps with the painstaking process: Veronica’s mom with labeling, Greg’s brothers with delivery, and the kids with product sales at fairs and festivals.
Stepping it up
Under the Seamans’ direction, Appalachian Mountain was a small operation, crafting the product in-home and selling exclusively at fairs and festivals. The Stovers are thinking bigger. Their products are now served at restaurants and sold in retail stores, both in and out of state. But no matter how far they expand, they don’t plan to sell to big box stores. “It’s a special product,” Veronica said. “It can only be bought and tasted at special places.”
written by wendy holdren