The spice of life
Local company mixes up tasty dips, soups
By April Towery
Everyone thinks their mama’s home cooking is the best – but the children and grandchildren of Carmela Randack may have an advantage in that competition.
Carmie was born in Pittsburgh, and her family moved to New Mexico when she was just a year old. She’s made Collin County her home since she and husband Jerry moved to the area 41 years ago.
As a stay-at-home mom of three children in the late 1980s, Carmie and her girlfriends tried to make a little extra money by peddling their wares at arts and crafts shows in the Dallas area. One of those women sold homemade goods.
“They were awful, and she sold a ton of them,” Carmie recalled. “I said, ‘I think I can do better than that.’”
And so she did.
Carmie, who has always loved cooking and baking – traits she inherited from her mother – tried whipping up a spicy dip to pair with tortilla chips. The blend of cumin, chiles and other spices didn’t quite deliver the kick Carmie was looking for. She refrigerated it and tried it again next morning.
A star was born, and more than three decades later, Mañana Mexican Dip Mix (which got its name because it tasted better the next morning) is still the company’s best-selling product in a line of more than 50 original dip mixes.
“I made it in my kitchen and we would sell it at these little craft shows,” Carmie said.
Carmie and her husband Jerry shared a booth with “another person that I didn’t even know” at the Gourmet Market in Dallas, eventually hitting up just about every wholesale show in the country. A few years ago, Carmie’s Artichoke Parmesan dip won first place at Gourmet Market.
“By doing the shows and getting out there, people were able to taste our products,” Carmie said. “Thank goodness they like what we have.”
The Randacks have since scaled back to about five wholesale shows per year and visit the Dallas market quarterly. It was on the trade show circuit that they made some friends who are graphic artists and were able to breathe personality and color into their packaging. And like a flavorful blend of spices, the result was sweet and savory success.
“I can’t take credit for that; it was just pairing up with the right people,” Carmie said.
The ideas that came to be in Carmie’s kitchen are now prepared by a team that includes Carmie, her husband Jerry, youngest son Tommy and his wife Laine, along with just three other employees. An additional four seasonal employees help out during the fall. Plenty have volunteered to taste test Carmie’s dips, cheeseballs, beer breads, sweet treats, barbecue rubs and oil seasonings, which are available locally at The Ole Back Porch in Wylie, Southfork Ranch in Parker, Texas Traditions in Rockwall, Texas Memories in Plano, Bradbury Lane in Richardson, My Boo’s Boutique in Farmersville and many more, including several locations in Dallas and Frisco. A store locator and option to order online can be found at peppersprings.com.
“We try really hard not to put products in more than one store in any particular area, especially in little towns; they just can’t support it,” Carmie said. “We have some very large customers which are wonderful, and all our smaller companies have kept us going over the years.”
About 3,000 items are produced each day, with the help of machines that form the plastic bags that hold the seasoning combinations, fill the bags and seal them.
Carmie’s Kitchen warehouses on Windco Road in Wylie – where products are shipped nationwide – are a far cry from the Randacks’ humble beginnings in the office break room at a building in Richardson that they rented for just $25 a month. The city’s health department ensured that they were up to code, but they stayed there less than a year because “it smelled a lot like onion and garlic,” Carmie said with a laugh. It’s not lost on her that their products are now sold in Yankee Candle flagship stores.
Carmie’s Kitchen started out with a product line of just four dips – Mañana, Dilliest Dill, Fiesta Spinach and J.R.’s Ranch (named for Carmie’s husband Jerry, “the real J.R.”).
Carmie’s son Tommy and daughter-in-law Laine Randack, who have been with the company for 18 years, began adding their own recipes, including a best-seller Baked Enchilada Dip.
“She’s revamped all the new soup flavors,” Carmie said of Laine. “The new cheesecake bites were Tommy’s idea. We are just really fortunate. We have a really close-knit family.”
Tommy and Laine are slated to take over the company one day but have insisted that they want to continue using Carmie’s name.
Another thing the family agrees on is its strong work ethic. Carmie and Jerry’s three children, six grandchildren and one great-granddaughter (another great-grandbaby is on the way) can often be found in the kitchen, gathering around a tasty treat or kicking around ideas for new products to add to their inventory.
“My mom loved to cook,” Carmie recalled. “When I was growing up they didn’t have a lot of restaurants. People got together and had potlucks and everybody brought something to eat.”
Coming up with a combination of ingredients that tastes just right can be a challenge, Carmie added.
“It’s a lot of experimenting,” she said. “If you like to cook, you get an idea in your head of what you want something to taste like, and then you start playing around with the spices. Sometimes it takes 20 tries. It’s a trial and error process. We get together and come up with new ideas. It’s fun to see everyone get involved.”
Almost all products are domestic, with just a few exceptions.
“We want it to succeed,” Carmie said. “Failure is not an option. That’s the way my husband was brought up.”
If they run out of a product, they make it by hand. They pride themselves on originality, but they’re also willing to take suggestions from customers – such as whether a dip works better hot or cold or with a different variation of ingredients.
“A lot of my friends were taste testers in the beginning,” Carmie said. “They’ve been really honest. We’ve been fortunate and blessed. We’ve never gotten tired of hearing that our dip is the best, and we’ve never taken it for granted. I’m grateful for each and every person that has called back and reordered.”