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fed is like ham-flavored silk.” Edwards products are revered among


home cooks and the foodie elite. They can be found in grocery stores like Kroger and Wegmans. They’ve been featured on the Today show and served up in award-winning restaurants from California to New York, as well as throughout the South in Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia, among others. However, no American success story


Edwards Virginia Smokehouse employees gather in front of the retail shop in Surry.


the company’s signature product, the Surryano ham, aged from 18 months to four years. It’s so buttery and delicious that it’s prized by chefs across the country. The name is a play on Serrano ham, the expensive Spanish version made from acorn-fed pigs. Judging from the reaction of the fine-dining community, the demand supports what Edwards has known all along — that a Virginia-made ham can measure up to


the best in the world. Each year, a portion of vintage


Surryanos are made from hogs fed a diet of up to 30 percent peanuts. “The oil from the peanuts gives the ham a unique flavor and texture — you get moist, satiny, rich, smooth and sweet tastes to the tongue instead of the burn of salt,” says Keith Roberts, Edwards’ sales manager. “I say the regular Surryano is like ham-flavored butter, and the peanut-


is without an element of tragedy, and Edwards Virginia Smokehouse has now seen its share. On January 19, 2016, a devastating fire leveled the Surry facility, decimating the 90-year-old family business and depriving Surry of one of its largest employers. The blaze caused no injuries, yet destroyed the entire complex and took with it thousands of ham products, as well as priceless family artifacts. About 125 firefighters from 12 companies in the region spent two days fighting the fire. The family, along with employees, friends and neighbors could only stand by and watch as a local legend went up in smoke. No cause was ever determined. Edwards stoically vowed to rebuild


and within days began formulating a plan. The company first worked to distribute inventory that had been stored offsite, and then began finding facilities in North Carolina, Alabama, Kentucky and Missouri which could produce hams according to Edwards’ recipes and specifications. The business set up temporary office space and storage facilities and relied on its catalog division. Today, finished products are brought to the headquarters in Surry and then delivered or shipped out to customers. “We’re still in survival mode,” Edwards said. In spite of the challenges, the company is making progress toward recovery. By necessity, the company’s model


is now one of brand manager and distributor, instead of manufacturer. Day to day operations are in the hands of Sam W. Edwards IV (Sammy), vice president, and Tom Sutton, quality control and food safety manager. Edwards III and Roberts travel the country visiting hog farmers, ham houses, food shows, restaurants and upscale retail operations like Taste in Virginia, Williams-Sonoma in California, Dean & DeLuca in New York and Central Markets in Texas. The duo analyzes


50 July/August 2017


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