by Lauri Raymond
Sisters & Company was established as a partnership in October 1987 with Celeste Seay (known to her family as “Sister”), my twin sister Carol Raymond and I as the three partners.
January 1988 – The three of us began producing, marketing and distributing a salad dressing/sauce/marinade called Eureka Garlic SASS. (“Eureka Garlic” because we did – every time we made it. “SASS” because it sounded sassy like our product and because, since it was so versatile, we didn’t want to label it only a salad dressing. Later we decided SASS stood for “season all stuff sauce.”)
After a short but exciting stint of making SASS in Carol’s house (you really can “ski” on oil with a baby on your back), we were invited to share a kitchen with another small food company, “Out to Lunch.” Owner Woody Hitchcock became a good friend and food business teacher. We began distributing SASS in Austin throughout health food stores and a few locally-owned upscale markets. With fresh ingredients and lack of additives or artificial preservatives, it was ideal for produce departments, delis or dairy cases.
December 1988 – Carol and I began to buy Celeste out. The buyout was completed in March 1990.
1993 – The company incorporated, with each of us retaining a 50% share. We couldn’t get the name Sisters & Company so, since there were men in the company, we decided to incorporate as Sisters & Brothers, Inc. Until 2001, we continued doing business as Sisters & Company.
February 1994 – Carol moved to Santa Fe to pursue other interests. At this time, I took over all of the day-to-day operations of the company. Carol supports my leadership of the company and I’m grateful to have her input on the major decisions that must be made from time to time.
May 1994 – We moved our operations to the space next door to Woody which was being vacated by another friend, Patrick Timpone, of Timpone’s Fresh Foods. By this time, our products had become popular in upscale mass-market supermarkets as well as natural food and specialty stores.
July 1997 – We had a booth at our first national trade show, the New York Fancy Food and Confections Show presented by the prestigious National Association of Specialty Food Trade. As participants, we were allowed to enter one product into the awards competition for free. We chose our top product, Sesame-Garlic SASS, and were delighted and gratified to win first place in the Oil, Vinegar and Salad Dressing Category. We got a beautiful gold statue that is now called a Sofi.
May 2001 – Sisters & Company acquired Martin Brothers Fresh Dressings, another excellent line of all-natural, fresh salad dressings. Our family of products now included 16 dressings and three dips. The Martin brothers and Raymond sisters, friendly competitors since the late 1980s, had often discussed becoming one company. We were delighted to add their well-loved products to our line-up and – bonus – our corporate name, Sisters & Brothers, Inc., was now a perfect fit.
Spring 2006 – The decision was made to combine both lines into the SASS brand. New labels were designed for the Martin Brothers products and the change was advertised via the website, press releases, neck hangers and point of purchase signs.
As I was looking around for some information to convey “the heart” of our company, I came across something entitled, “Stuff We Always Thought People Should Know About Us, But We Never Could Get Anybody to Write,” which I think Carol wrote sometime in 1991. Here is part of it:
“Everyone thinks we must be great cooks because we make these fantastic products. But we really did it because – who has time to cook? We wanted to give our customers something special without junk in it, that you can splash on anything to make it taste great. Something good, fast and healthy.
“Our motivations for starting our own company were entirely selfish: We wanted to work at a place that wouldn’t freak out if a kid walked in and started playing on the swivel chairs. We wanted to work for a place that understood when our kids were sick and needed us. We wanted to work for a company which values its employees, treats them like human beings, knows they are creative and have ideas to contribute, as well as energy, insight and different perspectives – knows that people have lives outside of work and strives to incorporate ideals and vision for the world into the company. We wanted to make money.”
That still pretty much says it all.
We are so grateful for the wonderful response we have always gotten from the people who buy our products. Their creativity, passion and commitment to healthy, fabulous food inspire us. We are always lifted by their letters and emails, filled with great SASS stories, encouragement and recipe ideas.
We have always been very touched by the commitment and support of our employees, retail partners and suppliers. They are our extended family. With them, we have had a lot of laughter, tears, learning and love.
After 25 years, I still feel very fortunate; I wake up almost every morning excited for what this day in the world of SASS will bring. It continues to be an amazing journey.
~ Lauri Raymond, Oct. 2013