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Edwards Virginia Smokehouse announces sale of company
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Edwards Virginia Smokehouse announces sale of company

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It’s the end of a 95-year era for the Edwards family.

Surry-based Edwards Virginia Smokehouse, the specialty ham empire that spans four generations, will be sold to Missouri-based Burgers’ Smokehouse, also an American multigenerational family ham business.

Burgers’ Smokehouse will pay Edwards Virginia Smokehouse for use of Edwards’ trademark and recipes. Sam Edwards III, president of Edwards Virginia Smokehouse, said the agreement includes a noncompeting clause preventing Edwards from making country ham, bacon and sausage for four years.

The deal was announced Tuesday. Steven Burger, CEO of Burgers’ Smokehouse, said it is expected to close on Aug. 31. He said Burgers’ offer was for an undisclosed amount.

Edwards ham products are a staple of holiday meals and sought-after in the fine dining world, but in January 2016, a fire destroyed the company’s 50,000-square-foot building housing the smokehouses and cure rooms.

Selective Way Insurance offered only about a fourth of the cost it would take to rebuild, Edwards said. This launched a lawsuit that has dragged on for five years and which Edwards expects to last another two. That’s part of why he decided to sell the company.

“So because of that, and with the next generation having put their careers on hold, it just seemed like the right thing to do to move forward with the offer that Burgers’ Smokehouse made to make the purchase of the company,” Edwards said.

The Burgers and Edwards families are no strangers. The second generation of each (the current owners’ parents) met through the industry and became friends. They took vacations together and developed a relationship that extends to the third and fourth generations of Edwards and Burgers.

After the fire, the Burgers were one of four country ham producers, along with two sausage companies, that helped continue making the Edwards product, Edwards said. The Burgers will continue to produce Edwards products using those recipes.

Burger said that before the fire was even put out, he was extending his regret to the family. He said the Burgers will try to do their part to keep the brand in the market.

“Being fortunate enough to have produced the product for the last five years or so here, they’ve made it almost a natural extension of what we’re doing now to go ahead and take ownership,” Burger said.

Edwards has ham shops in Williamsburg and Surry, where people can buy provisions — whole ham, deli slices, bacon and sausage — and sandwiches.

The shops will not close just yet, but they cannot keep selling products under the Edwards label because of the noncompeting clause, he said. Edwards said ideally he could find someone to take over the stores and run them under a new name.

He also thanked wholesale and retail customers for their support for 95 years.

“If it hadn’t been for our friends in the country ham industry, especially Burgers’, we wouldn’t have been around for the last five years,” Edwards said. “So again it’s just the way things turned out. You know, maybe one day I’ll come out of retirement and write a book about the insurance industry.”

Elizabeth Moore, 757-247-4517, elizabeth.moore@virginiamedia.com

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