Local peanut brittle entrepreneur Courtney Ray Goodson channels Southern charm, a characteristic she comes by honestly.
Goodson was inspired to turn her love of peanut brittle into a business through a close relationship to her grandmother's brother, Uncle Ray, who was famous in Southeast Texas for over 35 years because of his own peanut brittle recipe. "[The recipe] wasn't written down, spoken aloud, or stored in a safe somewhere – he just started making it in front of me one day and I learned," says Goodson. She tweaked the classic family recipe (with Uncle Ray's approval, of course) before bringing her own brittle to the market. It wasn't always easy, especially in her first few years of business.
"It's the classic challenging story of any new business. Selling wholesale is super tough when you're in your first year of business, overhead is high, and you can't yet purchase in bulk so ingredient costs are still high – not to mention the startup capital it takes, which I really didn't have," says Goodson. When her first big order came in, she didn't even have enough money to purchase the nuts for the recipe. But she powered through, soon finding her product on the shelves of all 10 Central Market locations within six months of being open for business in 2017. She's still going strong, developing new flavors.
Goodson offers three regular options – like the original (which boasts extra peanuts) and her megapopular bacon peanut brittle (surprisingly well-balanced) – all available at Central Market and online, as well as seasonal flavors like Hatch chile pecan, available in August during the Hatch Festival. For Valentine's Day, she created a peanut brittle with added peanut butter and drizzled dark chocolate. She's also a big fan of her seven-layer brittle bar, a play on a classic seven-layer bar with coconut and pecans. Goodson has a lighter, buttery version of the classic called Crunch for a Cause Butternut Brittle, and all proceeds from this yellow-tagged bag go to the Friedreich's Ataxia Research Alliance, a national nonprofit close to her heart. "There's always something new to create. Soon, I'm sure, I'll be cooking up something for the summertime," she says. In fact, Goodson let us in on a little secret: "I'm planning a Harry Potter-themed butter beer brittle later on this summer."
While the road to success hasn't always been smooth sailing, Goodson says that she really feels at home in the still new-to-her role as a small-business owner, and her sunny disposition makes connections a breeze. Recently, she was handing out her pumpkin pie-flavored Hopscotch brittle at Central Market in San Antonio when she struck up a conversation with an older gentleman whose daughter worked for the Hallmark Channel. Soon after, she was featured on the network's Home & Family show, where she presented a peanut brittle demo.
Sadly, Uncle Ray (also known as Lawrence Ray McClelland or Daddy Mac) passed away in early February 2019, but Goodson's sweet and savory brittle will carry on his legacy of old-fashioned Southern charm. Goodson wrote on Facebook, "I loved this man dearly, and it makes me sad to think I won't hear that buttery, Southern voice of his, or sit on his front porch watching the world go by, listening to stories from the old days and talking about life. Uncle Ray never knew a stranger, had the cutest country phrases, was oh so charming, had a laugh that made me want to laugh, always wore a button-up shirt when I was coming over to visit just for coffee, thought the world of his daughters, and best of all, he shared his love and created community with so many ... disguised in the form of peanut brittle."
"When times are hard, I try to think back on this last year and appreciate how far I've come in so little time, and I feel very grateful," Goodson says. "I definitely had some monster help from friends and family along the way, and for that I'm even more grateful!" Here's to another nutty year in the life of Austin's spunkiest entrepreneur.
For more info, check out www.unclerayspeanutbrittle.com.
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