Norma and Park
Back in 1980, fresh out of college and penniless, Park Kerr had an idea. "I had two ladders and a nail-studded 2-by-4 covered with chile ristras. I think I bought them for three bucks in New Mexico and sold them for $15 in El Paso on a street corner." The message was clear: people were hungry for hot stuff.
By 1982, Park and his partner, mother Norma, were know as The El Paso Chile Company, and their hand-crafted chile wreaths and ristras graced the covers of the Neiman Marcus and Horchow Collection catalogs. In an attempt to develop a less seasonal business, they created their first gourmet food products with playful names like Snakebite Salsa, Sweet Texas Fire, and Hellfire & Damnation.
In the early '90s, Park's brother-in-law and sister, Sean and Monica Henschel, moved to El Paso, joined the company, and helped build it into a solidly successful family business. Trend-setters at that time, their product line and original packaging expanded into a line that now proudly boasts 17 dips and salsas, five barbecue sauces, six condiments, six best-selling cookbooks (written by Park), and a dizzying array of imaginative gift, snack, and drink mix selections. Recently, as a reaction to his "mid-life crisis," Park began distilling and marketing TEQUILA NACIONAL, a premium, 100% blue agave tequila, a life-time passion.
The El Paso Chile Company is synonymous with fun, interesting, original flavors, and incredibly creative labels. "Food is fashion!" says Park, who's been called everything from "the Drew Carey of Salsa" to "the Martha Stewart of the Border." "Our customers are busy and food savvy--they want premium natural ingredients, big bold flavors, and open-and-eat convenience." Kerr's frequent trips around the world, to seek out new tastes and trends, have kept product development at a brisk pace. And quality counts--family members still oversee the production of every batch of hand-made salsas and artisan foods. Today, Sean oversees operations as President and C.F.O., Park does whatever he wants to, Monica is personnel director and manages the retail division, while co-founder Norma continues to supply philosophical inspiration.
If you're ever "out in the West Texas town of El Paso," be sure to stop by and visit The El Paso Chile Company's Chile Shop, housed in a rustic factory building and run by Monica. Full of unique treasures from south of the border and beyond, you'll find a wide array of useful and fanciful items--as well as lots of salsa, drink mixes, and cookbooks.
Remember the El Paso Chile Company rule of thumb: You can never go wrong consuming from the three food groups - Salsa, Snacks, and Margaritas!