Built on taste: AC Legg celebrates 100 years in business.
Published on Thursday, May 11, 2023 at 1:28 pm
By Noah Wortham | Staff Secretary
The first thing you notice when you walk into the front door of AC Legh’s office is the smell of spices in the air.
“Everything in this building smells like sage,” said CEO Jim Purvis. “We make our own sage in this building and that’s why it smells so much sage.”
Every day, the members of the Purvis family come to work and inhale fresh spices from around the world.
“We have stuff that comes in from six different continents with brokers and we bring it right in here and they take the recipe and turn it into a mix,” said president Jeff Purvis.
It’s safe to say that spice is a way of life for the Purvis family.
Chances are you’ve heard the name AC Legg before or you’ve tried their famous range of spices.
“If you’ve eaten sausage in the South, you’ve eaten our product at some point,” said AC Legg Executive Vice President Chuck Purvis.
The secret to the success of many companies starts with the help of AC Leg.
“We’re the old sausage maker in the back room,” says CEO Jim Purvis. “We send the season and they prepare the product.
Spices are the key to flavor in any dish that often goes unnoticed.
“One of the things my grandfather always said was, ‘Spicing is the element of style that makes all the difference,'” Chuck said.
A century of taste
On May 11, AC Leg celebrated its 100th year in business.
“Five out of 1,000 companies will see 100 years,” said Jeff Purvis, president of AC Legg. “It’s the place to be. We’re still wrapping our heads around it.
Jeff shares why he believes the company has lasted this long.
“We’ve made it to 100 years because as things change, we change a little bit,” he said.
AC Legg has been a model over the years to better serve its customers, but the content of their products has not changed.
“We’ve changed our model, but at the same time, the Blend 10 has never changed,” Chuck said. “We are not the biggest spice company, spice companies have come since us. There are many bigger than us (and) there are many smaller than us. But we are known for quality and service and we have never changed that.”
To celebrate the company’s centennial milestone, the Purvis family decided to rebrand the company’s logo.
“We went back and rebranded and looked at where we were as a company,” Jeff said. “To include 1923. We went a little more timeless than where we were.”
According to Chuck, the company has put an exact replica of AC Legg’s signature back into the logo.
“We’ve come up with different things and we’ve built our tag line (on it) ‘Taste,'” Jeff said.
AC Leg celebrated 100 years of business in American Village on May 5. During the event, the Purvis family expressed their gratitude to those who helped the company along the way and shared the story of the business with the audience.
When it came time to share the company’s story with the public, Jeff struggled to put the company’s rich history into words.
“How do you tell a story that’s not yours,” Jeff said. There’s an old Greek saying that says, ‘A community grows when elders plant trees and don’t sit in the shade.’ And tonight I, my family, my AC Legg colleagues sit under the shade of a tree planted 100 years ago in Birmingham, Alabama.
AC Legg was founded on May 11, 1923, but its history begins 30 years ago.
In the year In the 1890s, a man named Andrew Cowman Legg went to work for his father in a butcher’s shop in Birmingham. For decades, they worked together to serve their local community, and over time, Legg’s Pork Sausage became synonymous with being the best around.
The secret to their success is a unique blend of spices that they have tried and perfected over the years.
In the year In 1913, a man named Joseph Werner Cowart changed careers from a banker to running his own milling company. He ran his own business for five years until he finally saw a big opportunity.
Cowart was introduced to Legg and his butcher business at 1st and 2nd Avenue North on 22nd Street. Later, he realized that the secret of the business’s success was not in the quality of the meat, but in the special collection of spices that the family had developed.
After the deal, AC Legg Packaging Company was formed by AC Legg, JV Cowart and Leon Cole to distribute Legg’s famous sauce seasonings to other butchers, sausage makers and families across the country.
AC Legg Packaging Company shipped the first barrel of 10 spices on December 8, 1923 to Jonesboro, Arkansas.
The basis of a taste
The base of the new business is Legg’s Special Mix 10 recipe, the 10th sausage seasoning that Legg and his father have used over the years.
“It’s the flavor our company was built on and we still sell it today,” Jeff said.
Chuck described the flavor of the blend as almost Southern pork seasoning.
“I like to joke that it’s the granddaddy of all sauce spices,” says buying director Jamie Purvis. “Everything you eat is built from that foundation and someone has customized it to their taste profile.”
According to Jim, the enduring success of the flavor can be attributed to one thing.
“We use quality ingredients,” he said. “We use the best sage, the best black pepper, the best salt that we can buy.
The company accepts pre-mixed spices from all over the world, but treats sage differently.
“We could already find it, but we won’t do that because the sage starts to lose some of its power as soon as it’s digested,” Chuck said. “This is our secret sauce. The sage makes the difference.
Change in management
Despite leaving such a lasting legacy, AC Legg was not with the company for long.
In the year In 1925, he sold his stake in the newly formed AC Legg Packaging Company to Cowart, retired to South Georgia, and experimented with the growing sage.
Cowart took over the company and brought OR Dunn in as a partner. Over the next seven years, AC Leg Packaging Company grew from $10,000 in revenue in 1931 to over $1,000,000. The company grew during the Great Depression and had a presence in every state through multiple distributors.
AC Legg Packaging Company It moved from its original location in 1935 to 2319 First Avenue North in Birmingham, where it remained until 2001.
Jeff’s grandfather, Charles W. Purvis, was hired in 1936 and began working in the office. Over the years, he made himself essential to the company’s success and eventually became the general manager in charge of day-to-day operations.
In the year In 1946, Cowart sold his interest in the company to a group of businessmen, including sales manager Paul Blanchard and Charles. In time, Blanchard acquired all the shares except those held by Charles.
Blanchard then sold the company to his son Jerry in the 1950s; It means that the company’s production will double over time. Jeff was later diagnosed with a brain tumor.
Uncertain when it would pass, that passed the torch to Charles W. Purvis, creating a handshake deal that transferred the business to the Purvis family.
“Mr. Blanchard turned to my grandfather and basically said, ‘Hey, you’ve been with me this whole time, we don’t have any kids to take this place. When my wife dies, we’re going to sell you our stock. I want you to run the company when I die,'” Jeff said.
Jeff Blanchard He died in 1975 and his wife Elizabeth took over the company before her death in 1977. After a brief legal dispute, Charles took over AC Legg in 1979.
“My dad worked his whole life and he’s been in business his whole life,” Jim said.
A member of the Purvis family has been running AC Legg ever since.
A new house
Over time AC Leg continued to develop and grow its position in Birmingham, which made it time to find a new home for the business.
“In the late ’90s, we faced a tough decision,” says Jeff. “Are you going to sit there and watch it grow or sell it? My father decided to grow up with his brothers and sisters and my grandfather who were in the company.
Finally, they found a place in Calera, Shelby County.
“My dad (Jim) did a lot of searching and Calera rolled out the red carpet and made us feel important and we moved to Shelby County,” Jeff said.
Construction on the new location began in 2000 and the company officially moved to Calera on September 10, 2001.
The former site in Birmingham is now known as the Legg Loft and has been preserved since it was registered as a National Historic Site. Although it is outdated, the place still reflects all those years of business.
“They tell us that on a hot summer day, when the heat is up and the floors are breathable, it still smells like sage,” Jeff said.