For over 90 years, Weber's has been churning out condiments while being locally owned and operated in the City of Buffalo. "The business was formed in 1922 by Joseph Weber and John Heintz, no relation to the HJ Heinz company," said Weber's President Steve Desmond. "Joe Weber bought Heintz out in 1926, and we have no idea what happened to the Heintz family since then."
While the search for the Heintz family continues, Desmond says Weber's has remained family owned and operated ever since.
Desmond took over operations of Weber's in 1997, and brought in a philosophy that simple equals success. "When I took over we had pickles, we had cherry syrup and cherry juice. We were only selling two or three cases a year. You can't be a middle man in the pickle industry."
Desmond made some minor changes, but knew there are some things that shouldn't be touched.
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"Weber's mustard is the founder's original mild mustard recipe. Only three people right now know the mixing recipes and family recipes for all of Weber's products." Desmond says a lot goes in to keeping that secret.
"Weber's was never patented, and I believe (Jospeh Weber) did that to keep the family secrets private because a patent expires in 17 years and then it's public domain. Any employee that starts at this company signs a non-disclosure agreement. Anything that goes on in this company from the recipes to the mixing is not discussed outside the building, and I hold everybody solid to that non-disclosure agreement."
It's a bit easier keeping a secret under wraps when the company is as close knit as Weber's, which has far less mustard makers working on the production line than you likely think. Desmond says he only has six employees, and his current crew has been together for about four years. While Desmond is in charge, he says the company's small profile means everyone can get involved and have a voice in its operation.
Weber's may feel like a small business, but its reach is global. Desmond says he ships cases of mustard to WNY transplants all over the world. "A few years ago we had a research base in Antarctica order seven cases to put in their store. I thought that was pretty impressive."
Desmond thinks Weber's might be Western New York's greatest export, but knows that none of it would be possible without the feverish support of its hometown.
"I think Weber's in any place but Buffalo would never have survived... In Buffalo I think the loyalty is there. We pride ourselves in Buffalo-made products and our community."