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Bruce and Vaunda Ballow stand outside the workshop where they store boxes of Ballow’s Famous Texas Chili Seasoning.

Lauren Ricks/Athens Review
Athens Review, Athens, Texas

LARUE — Bruce and Vaunda Ballow make their living off what began as a small scrap of paper.

They sell chili seasoning, a recipe that was handed down to them when they were married. They market it as “Ballow’s Famous Texas Chili Seasoning.”

The recipe won prizes in cooking contests as early as the 1940s, according to Bruce. He said people write to tell them they are entering the chili in contests and it’s taking top prize.

The couple opened a restaurant in their home town of LaRue in 1984 called “Ballow’s Cafe.”

They served the chili to their customers who were showed enthusiastic support.

“Area people liked it real well,” Bruce said. “Our customers kept telling us, ‘You should do something with this, the chili is good.’”

Sixteen years ago their daughter Lisa Moring — who lives in Mississippi — took that advice. Lisa and her husband designed the box and patented the product in 1992. Lisa contacted a company, Blendco Inc., which blends and packages the chili and ships the product to the Ballows.

The chili is encased in a bright yellow box with red lettering, a red pepper and a blue ribbon emblem is on the front.

“The seasoning is separated in two separate packages of ingredients inside,” Vaunda said.

They built a building next to their house which is their warehouse for the chili before it is delivered to customers.

Lisa sells the product around Mississippi and her parents peddle the chili across East Texas. Bruce takes boxes and sets up displays — which takes 16 boxes — in the local grocery stores.

“It’s just a matter of getting people to try it,” Bruce said. One of the stores that sells their product is Brookshires in Athens.

“Ballow’s Chili is almost as popular as 2-Alarm,” Paul DiBari — the store director — said. “People are constantly asking for it. The chili seasoning is a very good seller.”

The couple then markets the product on a national and international level. Vaunda sends the orders that have been placed through the post office. She said she sends the chili in 38 states and to several countries including England, Austria, Jordan, Mexico, Russia and Canada.

“Some workers in Iraq are taking it with them or asking for it to be mailed to them,” Vaunda said.

“We work from four o’clock in the morning to nine at night, seven days a week during chili season,” Bruce said.

When’s chili season? Bruce said it’s from October to the first of April normally. They have noticed a new trend of demand for chili during the summer.

For the Ballows, that can only be a good thing.

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