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IN THE BEGINNING THERE WAS MUSTARD

A Valley icon started with a dream and a garage


It was the spring of 1984.

Hoping not to attract attention, I walked into the Christiania Restaurant and settled on a bar stool. I was wearing my work: splatters of mustard from my hair to my dirty white sneakers.

Archie, the friendly bartender, asked what I’d like.

“How much for a beer?” I asked, dumping out my little change purse.

“That’s all right,” he said. “What would you like?”

He brought me a cold Budweiser and asked, “Are you new in town?”

I told him my current quest and why I smelled of Eau du Mustard.

Inspired by a friend’s recipe, I was attempting to produce and sell a fabulous gourmet spread. When my kids went off to college, I wanted to change my life, and this was it. I would call it Sun Valley Mustard. We bought a place on Warm Springs Road and converted the single-car garage into the mustard factory.

That day, things hadn’t gone so well—two batches of mustard failed the taste test. But I felt I would have a winner soon.

“You’ll get the first jar, Archie,” I promised.

“OK. We’ll trade for a Bud. Good luck, Lois.”

When my kids went off to college, I wanted to change my life, and this was it. I would call it Sun Valley Mustard.

In the beginning, most of the ingredients were supplied by Atkinsons’ Market, my first and most successful account. Not only did they give me display space, the deli always offered Sun Valley Mustard on sandwich orders. (And they still do.)

I was told I’d do anything to sell a jar of mustard. Guilty as charged; I passed out jars to stores, restaurants and even at parties. On Fridays, in the back of Atkinsons’, I did food demos dressed in seasonal costumes and lured hungry customers with crackers, a dab of mustard and a sliver of cheese.

For the 1985 Wagon Days parade, I was a walking jar of mustard: blue wig, gold face with flames painted around my mouth, a blue sweatshirt and tights, boots and a red cowboy hat. My friend’s dog led the way wearing a hotdog placard. We were a hit, and if I wasn’t known as such before, that day I officially became “The Mustard Lady.”

-Lois F. Allison

Allison sold the company in 1990. Present-day owner Latham Williams runs a modern operation, “with an 800-number and all,” Allison said. Sun Valley Mustard is available at stores throughout the Valley.

 

Photograph Five B Studios

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