Editor’s note: This article appears courtesy of FetchYourNews.com in Jasper, Georgia.
Cathy Cunningham wanted her mama’s cheese straws to be to snack foods what Tabasco was to hot sauce – the name everyone knew. So she launched Bodacious Foods in Jasper, Georgia, to produce Mama Geraldine’s cheese straws.
The energetic Cunningham said she didn’t know anything about food, except she liked to eat it and that her mother, Geraldine, made cheese straws that everybody “descended” on. She bought a small facility in Jasper and started producing them in 1999. She picked the name because “bodacious” is the best compliment a food can receive.
“It was a rough road because we didn’t have the business to support a facility,” she said. “When you operate your own business, it’s like you are holding up the wall you are back against.”
That’s why she appreciates Gov. Brian Kemp’s efforts to help small businesses. He toured her facility on Sept. 29 as part of a tour of businesses in the northern part of the state. Stephanie Reid, president and publisher of Shelby Publishing, also participated in the visit.
When asked about how the COVID-19 pandemic affected her, Cunningham quickly expressed gratitude.
“I’m healthy, my family is healthy and my crew is healthy,” she said.
Cunningham added that her company was blessed with health and the ability to keep serving cheese straws during the pandemic.
And unlike the recession of 2007, which left Bodacious Foods struggling from 2009 to about 2013, the pandemic had a much different impact.
“People were sheltering at home, eating cheese straws,” she explained.
After a three-week furlough to clean and sanitize the entire facility, the 15 or so employees returned to satisfy orders that were coming in like crazy. Then her buyer informed her that Mama Geraldine’s cheese straws would hit shelves at Walmart in July, not October as had been planned.
“That was good because traditionally, July is a slower month for us,” she said. All of it, she added was a “huge blessing.”
To reward her employees for a good attitude, she offered bonuses.
“We had to wear the masks anyway, so I told them they would get a $50 bonus each week they didn’t whine about it,” she laughed.
Kemp spent the day visiting facilities such as Bodacious, where he told Cunningham that he’d send his wife, Marty, back to stock up on cheese straws.
Cunningham said she met Georgia’s first lady shortly before the pandemic when their pimento cheese straws were a finalist for Georgia’s favorite snack.
“She came up and told me she loved my cheese straws,” Cunningham said.