For years, the century-old sauce was made only for friends and family.
Then one day, back in the mid-90s, Bob and Jacqui wanted to raise some money to help put a roof on a church in need. That’s when Jacqui felt the Lord’s lead to make the sauce and “keep it simple.” Unfortunately at the time, it was too complicated to accomplish that in Michigan, so the decision was made to produce the sauce in Maggie Valley, North Carolina. That was the beginning of Uncle Bob’s Smoky Mountain Premium Sauce.
Unfortunately it took so long to get the company up and running that the roof of the church had been finished before Uncle Bob’s was able to contribute. Nevertheless, the intentions were cemented in, and that heart to help others became the driving force of Uncle Bob’s.
Being an over-the-road truck driver gave Bob the opportunity to sell the sauce throughout the nation on his routes from the cab of his truck; and also at flea and farmers markets when he was home.
After a year or so, the logistics of running a company out of state became too arduous with a full time job and so the difficult decision was made to discontinue operations. Over the years requests for the sauce continued to pour in. So in 2001 after Bob had retired and relocated to East Tawas, Michigan, he and Jacqui decided to make the sauce once again. They contacted the East Tawas community center and after coming to an agreement began production locally.
They added a mild sauce variety and began selling the two sauces with a new label and the slogan “Enjoy The Goodness” at arts & crafts shows, street fairs, festivals and trade shows like Shipshewana. They expanded to offer the sauce, for the first time, in a few local stores. They also sold sauce from their home on US-23, which many people remember to this day.
In 2005 The Bay City Times, looking for a local story, contacted the family requesting an interview. And to their surprise the story was featured on the full front page of the Memorial Day edition. The article was shared in other cities and states and orders began coming to the website from around the neighboring states.
Bob was delighted with the company’s growth, but realized the small company was consuming the time he had hoped to enjoy in retirement so he sought the help of family with the operations. For 4 years he and the family worked together and helped Uncle Bob’s to continue growing.
In 2007 Bob’s eldest son, also a truck driver, was laid-off with the Michigan recession. It was during that time he continued to expand Uncle Bob’s wholesale market in Michigan to also include some restaurants. Uncle Bob’s gained further exposure appearing in more trade shows and festivals throughout the state.
In 2009, Bob and Jacqui requested their son Bob take the company and continue to grow it remembering to “keep it simple.” Bob accepted the responsibility on the condition the business remain a family affair. The business was relocated to Frankenmuth shortly after Jacqui passed to her heavenly home following a brief bout with cancer.
A few months later, Bob’s employer contacted him with an opening and was able to offer him the position, the only draw-back was it was across the state in Grand Rapids. Bob made the decision to relocate during the weekdays, returning home to his family and Uncle Bob’s every weekend. For 5 years Bob made the long commute, working both his full-time job during the week and Uncle Bob’s on the weekends. It was during that time he realized the potential to expand the market on the West side of the state and so he spent the mornings before heading to work seeking out new store locations, including meat markets, cheese houses, wineries and restaurants. Weekends were spent manufacturing more sauce, still all by hand, to keep up with the increasing demand and delivering sauce throughout the rest of the state.
On August 14, 2012, Uncle Bob’s received a very special gift, and what they consider their highest honor. Being a 4 generation Vet family, it was not a gesture taken lightly, when they were presented with the flag of the United States of America which had been flown over Forward Operating Base Kunduz in Kunduz Province, Afghanistan. Uncle Bob, who had been in contact with the battalion, had sent the troops some sauce – which had been dubbed “liquid gold,” as a gesture of gratitude for all they sacrifice for our many freedoms. Uncle Bob’s loves our military men and women.
In 2014 Uncle Bob’s happily rebranded themselves, unveiling a new and improved, 3rd generation label and bottle (new look, same great sauces!) as well as expanding their line to include the first (Cajun flavored) dry rub. Nervous that the company was too small to properly market the upgrade but large enough to be affected, it was with the upmost gratitude they received the public’s enthusiastic response. The new look brought an influx of sales as well as an increase in restaurant and store locations. October of 2014 also marked another blessing, when Bob was able to relocate his job closer to home.
In 2015 Uncle Bob’s was approached by a national account. It took great faith, but the decision was made to accept the deal and for Bob to leave his employment to pursue it. In June of 2016 the Truck Stops of America (TA) and Iron Skillet restaurants rolled out their Smok’n BBQ Bonanza menu in promotion of summer which featured 6 full entrees made with Uncle Bob’s Smoky Mountain Premium Sauce.
2017 comes with great anticipation as Uncle Bob’s looks ahead to growing their product lineup. Plans for the production of their new Roasted Chipotle sauce and a new dry rub mark the horizon in addition to expanding their wholesale market outside of Michigan. As Uncle Bob’s expands, so do the opportunities for giving back to our soldiers, veterans and community both locally and around the world, keeping true to the heart of founders Bob and Jacqui Murphy.