The Blog Squad

Monday, February 05, 2007

The Spiciest Tour In Richmond

Me, Mark Sauer and Ze Franch Chef. This is one of the oldest animated, incandescent advertising signs in the country. Photo by Demetrios.

Before I go any further, I’d like to caution anyone who reads this: do not write, call or e-mail me, or anybody associated with the C.F. Sauer Company to get this tour. The opportunity was extended to me via my friend Demetrios Tsiptsis (co-owner of the New York Deli) and his friend Karen Windsor, of UNOS, who both prevailed on Mark A. Sauer, the Sauer’s vice president of sales.

Mark is one of five brothers involved with the firm — directly related to Conrad Frederick Sauer Sr. who, upon turning 21 on Oct. 31, 1887, founded the flavoring and extracts firm at 17th and Broad streets. The signature building at 2000 W. Broad with its Willy Wonka-esque mystique (including a clock that on occasion keeps its own time) became Sauer central in 1910. Since then, the company expanded into the former Sears building a block east, putting its packaging and distribution there.

The Sauer Building from the adjacent roof. Reminds me of the library in Back To The Future, especially with that flag staff, pediment and clock. Would the pole conduct 1.2 jigawatts?

On my tour, we started on the roof to view recent restoration of the animated incandescent sign. It was saved in 1978 from the demolition of a flatiron Sauer building that stood at Hermitage and Broad. The tour then wended among narrow corridors, ladders, steps, vats and large rooms of humming, whirring machines and man`y people wearing hair nets sorting, stuffing, hauling and checking, and wafts of cinnamon, vanilla extract, oregano, and pepper. I started humming that Looney Tunes cartoon “factory music” by Carl Stalling/Raymond Scott called “Powerhouse” (da dum DA da deedy-de dat-um-bum BUM bum bum bum…)

Oregano in a hurry…

I learned that 14 pounds of vanilla beans go into a gallon of vanilla extract. Through one door come sacks of India peppercorns, California paprika, vanilla beans from Madagascar that exit in company-made bottles and plastic spice shakers. Sauer also makes Duke’s Mayonnaise at their Greenville, S.C., plant, still without sugar — just as Mrs. Duke used to.

Why the Fan smells like cinnamon this morning.

This visit was a unique and surprising glimpse of a style of manufacturing that you don’t see much anymore.

All together now: “Hassenfeffer Incorporated!”


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