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Spice of Life

Johnny and Lisa Walker hold several of the dry-mix products produced by Emporium Packaging & Spice Company on SE Dodgen Loop in Temple. While most of the building is used for mixing, blending and storing dry spices, rubs, dips and seasonings, there’s a small market up front where you can buy products. Emporium plans to double the size of its building starting in the next year. David Stone photo

Temple ‘sandwich makers’ find success in producing dry mixes for restaurants

DAVID STONE | August 10, 2022

It all started with a sandwich and a big ol’ bowl of chili. Now, EmporiumPackaging & Spice Company blends, mixes, packages and ships seasoningsand dry mixes to customers across the country.

Chances are, you’ve sampled some of their products but may not realize it.

Perhaps you love the ranch dressing at Wings Pizza & Things, or crave the chili at Bird Creek Burgers, the beans at Chuy’s or the bread at The County Line barbecue. The mixes that create these treats come from right here in Temple, USA.

“Chili is the heart of our business,” said Johnny Walker, who co-owns the spice company with his wife, Lisa

“The ranch is very popular, and we have some barbecue blends that are challenging chili as our No. 1 product.”

“We opened in 1974 as Emporium Sandwich Shop just across Adams Avenue from the Temple Municipal Building,” Johnny said. “We made sandwiches and a very popular chili.”

The chili was in such demand the Walkers decided to rethink their future.

“We decided to sell the sandwich shop in 1982 to buy packaging materials and equipment,” he said. “We were going into the chili-mix business full time. There was so much opportunity there.”

“We started making chili, but chili is seasonal, so we started thinking of ways to produce dry mixes year round,” he said. “We started doing custom blending for restaurants, and that has turned out well.”

Emporium Spice has had several “homes” in Temple, but the business has been in the original Tractor Supply Co. building on SE Dodgen Loop for about eight years.

Today, Emporium Packaging & Spice processes about 1 million pounds of spices annually and provides proprietary mixes for at least 25 restaurant chains, cafes and other businesses.

Business is booming, and Walker said the company will be doubling the size of the 15,000-square-foot building during the next year.

“We will at least get it started within the year,” Johnny said. “We actually planned this expansion in 2020 before COVID hit. With everything that has happened in the past couple years, it’s probably a blessing that we didn’t start the project. We’re about ready now. At first we will use the new space for storage, then we will begin production in phases.”

Emporium does business with many Bell County restaurants and businesses, including Best Quality Meats, Backyard BBQ, Kerley’s Meat Market, Double Dave’s Pizza, Cheezy’s Meat Market, Trenos Pizzeria & Taproom, Cosper’s Country Meat Market, Schoepf’s BBQ, Dead Fish Grill, Monty’s Steaks & Brew, Clem Mikeska’s and Little Joe’s BBQ in Rosebud.

“I’ve been using Emporium Spice products for about 10 years,” said Little Joe Ambriz, who stopped by the store today to purchase garlic pepper for his homemade biscuits and a special barbecue seasoning he rubs on briskets.

In addition to creating mixes to a restaurant or meat market’s specifications, Emporium also sells its own line of products at the Temple location and online at emporiumspice.com.

The front of the spice plant is a small market that sells Spice Emporiumproducts, as well as other items made by Temple-area vendors.

In addition to Johnny and Lisa, two sons — Austin and Christopher — are among the company’s employees.

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