Duke Brands returns to downtown Greenville

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photo by Will Crooks

On its 100th anniversary, one of Greenville’s oldest companies has announced a new name and is returning to its roots with a new location downtown a block away from its original home.

President and CEO Andrew Smart announced Wednesday the official launch of Duke Brands, a private holding company whose portfolio currently includes Duke Foods (formerly Duke Food Productions) and Duke Sandwich Company, which will operate out of two floors in the newly constructed Falls Park Place building in downtown Greenville.

photo by Will Crooks
photo by Will Crooks

“We are excited to welcome Duke Brands back to Greenville,” said Greenville Mayor Knox White. “This family-run business has been a part of the fabric of our city for 100 years. We look forward to seeing what its leaders have in store for the next 100.”

Duke Brands’ completed headquarters at 600 S. Main St. is located on the third and fourth floors, totaling 12,000 square feet, above Table 301’s newly opened Italian restaurant Jianna on the second floor. Lululemon, an athletic-wear retailer, is on the street level of Falls Park Place.

The original Duke Sandwich Company manufacturing factory was established just down the street from the new headquarters by founder Eugenia Duke inside what is now known as the Wyche Pavilion on the banks of the Reedy River.

Duke Brands’ holdings — Duke Foods and Duke Sandwich Company — do not include Duke’s Mayonnaise, which Eugenia Duke sold to C.F. Sauer in 1929 and is still produced in the Mauldin plant. Eugenia Duke’s sandwich business was taken over by the Smart family in 1964. Andrew Smart, who grew up in the family business, launched Duke Food Productions, an industrial food manufacturer of branded and private-label products, on his own in 2006. In December 2016, he acquired full operation and control of Duke Sandwich Company, which had previously been run by his mother, Cheryl Smart.

Andrew Smart | photo by Will Crooks
Andrew Smart | photo by Will Crooks

Duke Foods was planning to acquire a new manufacturing plant in Bonham, Texas, to open in the second quarter of 2017, but pulled out in late 2016 to focus on its South Carolina operations. It has an existing 80,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in Easley that produces ready-to-eat dips, salads, salsas, and fresh and frozen bakery products for grocery chains and restaurants nationwide.

Moving forward, Smart says his team will focus on the acquisition of additional customer service-driven businesses in a variety of industries. The company plans to announce at least two new business units this year.

In 1917, Eugenia Duke started selling her signature spread sandwiches to local drug stores, textile mills, and World War I soldiers stationed at Camp Sevier. Made with her family’s homemade mayonnaise recipe, the spreads were an instant hit, and in the spring of 1919, Eugenia Duke sold more than 10,000 sandwiches in one day. Her success led to the establishment of the original manufacturing factory.

Eugenia Duke | photo provided
Eugenia Duke | photo provided

To honor Eugenia Duke and the example she set for female entrepreneurs, company and city leaders have announced plans to establish a permanent memorial in downtown Greenville to share Eugenia’s inspirational story for generations to come.

“Eugenia Duke was a true pioneer, laying the foundation for a company that continues to thrive today at a time when she didn’t even have the right to vote,” said Smart. “We are excited to work with the city to preserve Eugenia’s place in Greenville’s history.”

Plans for the memorial are in the beginning stages and still require approval from City Council, but organizers say it will be prominent.

“As a woman, I am honored to announce this partnership to recognize Eugenia Duke and her amazing story with a permanent memorial to be dedicated this year in downtown Greenville,” said Mayor Pro Tem Jil Littlejohn. “We look forward to making this vision a reality so that Eugenia’s contribution will be preserved to influence and inspire for generations to come.”

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