Custard Stand Chili wins Woman-Owned Business of the Year  

By Stephen Baldwin, RealWV

In 1991, Angie Cowger & her husband Dee started a small business in a Webster Springs car wash bay. Thirty-two years later, their West Virginia chili is available across America in over 700 Krogers, almost 600 WalMarts, over 200 Harris Teeters, and 15 Meijer grocery stores. 

“We’ve grown every year since 2003,” Dee says. “We were on Shark Tank in 2016 so that was a big year.”

Over the past year, they’ve expanded their reach in grocery stores by more than 30%, reaching new markets such as Nashville, Louisville, Atlanta, and Cincinnati.

The Chili Recipe  

“It’s an all beef recipe that was Angie’s grandpa’s recipe,” Dee explains. “It’s a unique flavor.”

“It only has six ingredients,” adds Angie. “No additives, no preservatives, no gluten, no trans fat, no shelf life extenders. It’s just an old family recipe that’s quick and easy. That’s what people want these days. Something that’s good, quick, and easy.” 

In the 1950s, Angie’s grandpa sold the recipe to another business in Webster Springs for $50. That business changed it slightly (by adding one ingredient), and it was popular. The Cowgers still have the original handwritten recipe. 

WV proud

“When COVID hit, a group of seven of us were making 4,000 pounds of chili a day in Webster Springs in the old car wash bays,” Dee remembers. “We were making 500,000 pounds per year.” 

They then shipped it out to customers and delivered it themselves to grocery stores across the eastern United States. As demand increased for their chili, they developed a relationship with Star Foods. “You can call it fate or whatever,” Dee says, “but they are our manufacturer now.”

Star Foods makes 18,000 pounds of Custard Stand chili daily. They fill containers while the product is 180 degrees, allowing it to have a longer shelf life in stores.

“We are proud to be a West Virginia company,” Dee says. “Every bit of chili is shipped out right here from West Virginia.” 

Woman-Owned Business of the Year

This spring, the West Virginia Small Business Administration recognized Custard Stand Chili as the woman-owned business of the year. “It was an honor to win this year,” Angie comments. “We got it due to the growth we’ve had and for the promotion of West Virginia we do.”

But the Cowgers aren’t just business leaders; they are community leaders. Ask anyone in Webster County, and they’ll tell you that the Cowgers reinvest their time and talent in the local area. From supporting little league to local festivals to the food pantry, they do it all. 

“One thing I can’t stand the thought of is a child not having a birthday cake,” Angie says. “So we make birthday cake kits to hand out at the food pantry. I’ve even used our chili truck to pick up their food before.”

More tricks up their sleeve

The Cowgers aren’t content to just continue expanding their chili operation; they have much bigger plans. 

“Dee has a chili that is a soup,” says Angie. “I’d also like to have a white bean chicken chili. We’ve had requests for a veggie chili and a spicy version.”

In addition to these new products, they are expanding their retail operations from their current restaurants to include food truck trailers. “Our brand is so well-known,” says Dee, “that we’d like sell branded food truck trailers to people all over the state.” The idea is that for a one-time fee, customers can buy a trailer and access to Custard Stand Chili products. They can then sell the food at fairs, festivals, or just around town right out of the trailer. 

The Cowgers also own and operate The Bergoo Grill, Cowger’s Campgrounds, and Legacy Loft. All are located in Webster County. “We’re always into something!” Angie jokes. 

How do the Cowgers like to eat their chili?

Dee: “A hot dog with chili, onions, and black pepper. For the soup, I like it with a grilled cheese.”

Angie: “A hot dog with chill, onions, and American cheese. My chili soup I want with crackers and a PB&J.” 

‘You can’t save the town’

Thinking about the future, Angie reflects, “I had someone tell me the other day we couldn’t save our town. It doesn’t need saving. It just needs to grow.”

They are doing their part to grow their town and state, and they say they meet new people who are doing the same thing all the time. 

“We want to be here for the long haul. Our goal is to do what we can to make Webster Springs and West Virginia a better place for people. We love our state!”


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