Hot Sauce with A Cool Attitude
From ‘the Seed’ in Orangeburg, Roy brings us Snido-Mite!
By NANCY C. WOOTEN T&D Feature Editor
Where do you go to get more glide in your stride? More dip in your hip? More gut in your strut? More zig in your zag?
Roy Snider got his start in Orangeburg. The soft-spoken slender man with the handlebar mustache who sang “Happy Birthday” to Katie Couric on “The Today Show” and was asked back so he could serenade Matt Lauer sat quietly in The Times & Democrat newsroom — until I asked him to sing.
“Are you sure you want me to?” he asked with true concern. “My voice really projects.” “Go ahead,” I said.
He had to stand up. Then he cut loose with a tune of his own making, singing about his own “Snido-Mite” spicy hot sauce:
“If you like to eat,
And you want a treat,
From morning ’til night,
Make your food, make it right,
Make your food with Snide-Mite.”
The words blasted through the walls of the cubicles in the newsroom, blowing several reporters through the press and knocking out three PCs and two Macs.
Roy Snider, 49, a native of Cameron who moved to Orangeburg when he was three, now manages a Stew Leonard’s, “the Disneyland of dairy stores, which does $100 million a year” in Danbury, Conn.
His dream, however, is to get his hot sauce off the ground and into grocery stores across the country. This hot sauce got its start, like Snider, in Orangeburg, with “The Seed from which all things came.”
The Seed is Snider’s grandmother, Ola Mae Garner, 89, of Shillings Bridge Road in Orangeburg, who played a “big part in his life.”
If Roy asks Ola Mae is now, she’ll say, “I’m still cool,” but if Roy asks her who she is, she’ll say, “I am the Seed.”
Snider used to pick cotton when he was four, he says, and he and his brothers — Robert Lee, James, Leonard, Barry, all still in Orangeburg, and Stanley Snider, who lives in Connecticut with Roy — would come in hungry for whatever his grandmother would make. They’d go catch a chicken for her to butcher, and she’d mix up some of her sauce to put on it. She also put the hot sauce on rabbit, goat or fried fish.
In the summer, they would have a barbecue picnic by digging a hole, building a fire with wood or charcoal, putting stones around the hole and a wire fence over it and cooking a pig all day on the fence. And they’d cook it with her kicking hot sauce.
Ola Mae had a garden with squash, tomatoes, string beans and other vegetables, and she had plenty of pecan trees. She also made “bullet” or muscadine wine.
“She would always say, ‘Whatever you do in life, Roy, always remember three things: “Attitude, attitude, attitude,” he laughed. “And ‘The only time you should look down at someone is when you’re reaching down to help them up,’ ‘A positive attitude builds character and a bad attitude reveals it,’ and ‘In order to do the impossible, first you have to see the invisible.’ That one used to drive me crazy.”
Roy went to Whitaker Elementary, then moved with his mom, Helen Fogle, to New York City for three years. Then he attended Sharperson Junior High, then Wilkinson High, Orangeburg-Wilkinson High and then Claflin College for three years.
“Then I went into the U.S. Army to ‘be all that I could be,’ he said, “When I got out, I went back to Claflin but found out I was too late to register. My father was in Connecticut, so I went there and got a job.”
He started out packing chicken at Stew Leonard’s, listed in 2003 as one of “Fortune 500’s 100 Best Companies to Work For.” There they couldn’t believe his work ethic and his attitude, attitude, attitude.
While he was butchering his meat, he was slinging his knives around and serenading his customers. Sometimes he got so wound up that he danced with them or for them. The store played country and western music, which he grew up on, and he couldn’t help himself. He became known as “The Director of Wow.”
His reputation grew, and crowds would develop around Snider. Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Barbara Bush, Donna Summers and other celebrities in the area stop by to buy meat and see Roy.
In the early eighties, Snider dreamed of becoming a singer. He took a leave of absence, grew out his hair and toured Europe with his brother Stanley, singing disco with a band known as “Secret Weapon.” Their hit, “Must Be the Music,” stayed on the charts for 19 weeks and still plays as a golden oldie.
When he came back to Stew Leonard’s, he started back as a butcher, then moved up to assistant manager and finally store manager.
Snider had never forgotten Grandma Ola Mae’s home cooking with the tasty hot sauce that always elicited such a reaction from the family crowds. “I started after her to get that recipe, and started experimenting with it,” he said, “and I thought, ‘I gotta do something with this. If Stew (Leonard) could start with produce and do what he did, I can do something with this.”
Now sold in Bethel Foods in Connecticut and all Big Y food stores in western Massachusetts and Connecticut, Snido-mite is made by Snider’s own business entity, Absolutely Necessary. It is listed in The Connecticut Food Showcase magazine, a catalog source for unique local food products.
Snider developed a name for himself and has been asked to give motivational speeches to Connecticut schools and colleges, and employees of Bank of America, Citibank, Nordstrom, IBM and other Fortune 500 companies about small business and his exemplary attitude.
“I talk to kids about pursuing their dreams,” he said, “and I tell them to keep studying, you don’t have to be somebody big. I’m just an average guy with a regular job and a regular family, trying to pursue a dream and having fun while I’m doing it.”
In 2001, Roy and brother Stanley founded a nonprofit organization, South City Organization, into which they donate half of the sales from Snido-Mite to help subsidize health care costs for persons without private insurance, Medicare or Medicaid; and to provide for the homeless and battered women.
Through his work, Roy has “been really blessed” to meet other product entrepreneurs, such as Robert Kennedy Jr., who discussed with him launching his bottled water, “Riverkeeper,” to support Kennedy’s environmental project, the late multibillionaire Frank Perdue of Perdue’s Chicken; and Paul Newman, whose nonprofit salad dressings were first sold in Stew Leonard’s.
To purchase Snido-Mite sauce, you can order it on-line at email@example.com or call Roy Snider’s mom, Helen Fogle, at 803-534-7493.
Snider is working on a mild version, but does not want to lose the uniqueness of it, and its heat is part of that. It is quite hot and has a uniquely spicy sweet taste that is good with potato chips or carrots.
Roy’s new June bride, the young attractive Mary Boswell Snider, says she cannot cook, but says of the sauce that “Whatever I broke, it’ll fix it.”
He adds the sauce to macaroni and cheese, soups (such as Campbell’s Select Chicken Noodle) or pasta, “just to change the character of the food.”
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