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SPOTLIGHT

By Tricia Moore | Photos courtesy of House of Webster

Sweet, Salty and Saucy at 90

House of Webster, a Rogers-based business, recently celebrated its 90th anniversary, and the story behind this purveyor of fine jams, jellies, relishes, salsas, syrups, sauces, preserves and pickled goods is special. It’s a homegrown nonagenarian and local source of pride that somehow balances the rural homemade history of our region with the push of growing modern tastes.

 

One may ponder how a company can have such longevity. Longtime employee and Chief Operating Officer Craig Duncan said it’s possible by adapting to change while remaining true to the company’s roots. “With rapid growth, it is easy to forget who you are,” Duncan said.

 

House of Webster was founded by husband-and-wife team Roy and Evelynn Webster during the Great Depression. Roy got creative while working his newspaper route in 1934 and began selling his wife’s homemade goods, which turned into a local freight company buying the goods as gifts for their employees. Today, the tradition of gifting or modern-day gift basket sales is an additional service that House of Webster provides.

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Duncan said the company’s top three sellers are Strawberry Preserves, Apple Butter and Mango Pineapple Habanero Salsa. A flavor they thought would do well but didn’t produce much in the way of sales was Pineapple Preserves, which disappointed Duncan, who loved it.

 

Many people have likely driven by House of Webster’s retail location in Rogers, next to its manufacturing facility, and not realized what a treasure they missed. With a new roadside sign, it’s now easier to find, but as Duncan noted, it is not situated in the typical retail areas. This has been an ongoing challenge — getting new residents to the location to discover the store and what it has to offer. However, you can often find the products in other Northwest Arkansas storefronts, such as City Supply on Fayetteville’s Historic Downtown Square.

 

House of Webster’s generational customer base remains strong. In the gift shop parking area, a customer said she had driven from Kansas to stock up for the summer. She continued to reminisce about long car rides “back in the day,” when her parents shopped for extra-special gifts at House of Webster. It was a glowing testimony to the loyalty of its customer base.

 

House of Webster now offers items on its website for purchase year-round, which can be shipped anywhere in the U.S. from its facility in Rogers. From gifting, wholesale and contract manufacturing, it now has some presence in all 50 states. The company has 65 employees — all of whom are residents of surrounding communities. The team members come from just across the Missouri line, to south of Fayetteville and places in between.

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The Webster family sold the company to John Griffin in 2006. Today, the company remains family-owned in his hands. When asked just how many family members are involved in the business, Duncan said, “I guess you could say 65 as we consider each other family, which keeps us true to who we are, even as we have grown over the years.”

Angela Brewer, who grew up not far from the facility, is proud to be working at House of Webster in her human resources role. She talked with pride about the company’s employees and about the workforce’s impressive longevity.

Duncan furthered Brewer’s sentiments about the workforce by describing his journey.  “I left the company in 2013 to try something different and returned to House of Webster in 2020,” he said. “I like to tell people I left for vacation on a Friday and returned on Monday seven years later. A few of us have taken such ‘vacations,’ and somehow, we returned to the same family even years later.”

 

While “sharing the great tastes of life” is a company passion, Duncan summed up what he wants Arkansans to know about the company: “Even after 90 years of evolving, growing and adapting, House of Webster continues to be a Rogers original.”

For more information, visit www.houseofwebster.com.

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