Legacy of family business is more than peanuts

by Veronica Garabelli

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Lynne H. Rabil works from her childhood home in Sedley where her mother started the Hubbard Peanut Co. nearly 60 years ago. The house is now the company’s headquarters.

When her mother, Dot Hubbard, began the business in 1953 “the only other company in Virginia that was a peanut processor at that time was Planters,” says Rabil, who is the company’s president. “They did a dry roast and what she developed was a little bit different and morphed into a new industry.”

Hubbard blanched the peanuts and fried them as opposed to dry roasting them in the oven. She originally sold the peanuts to local drugstores. As demand grew, the whole family became involved. Hubbard’s husband, H.J., helped design a machine that produced 10,000 pounds of peanuts a shift. As a teenager, Rabil delivered peanuts on the weekend, and in college she handled payroll. When her parents retired in the mid-1990s, Rabil became president. “I was excited about the prospects, and I wasn’t nervous because I had grown up in it, and I knew what to expect,” she says.

Today, Hubbard Peanut sells its Hubs products in the United States and abroad, and all four of the Hubbard children serve on the board of directors. Throughout the year they employ more than a dozen full-time workers, as well as some part-time and seasonal employees. The majority of their products are shipped directly to customers. Hubbard Peanut also produces peanuts for supermarkets under the grocers’ label (Rabil cites Ukrop’s, a longtime, Richmond-based supermarket chain, as an example. Ukrop’s stores were sold to the Martin’s chain in 2010.)

Yet with the company’s success have come hard times. In August 1998, Hubbard Peanut was forced to shut down after a fire destroyed part of its facilities. “A lot of our customers waited for us that holiday season,” says Rabil, who notes that many customers opted to send peanuts as Valentine’s Day gifts as opposed to Christmas gifts. 

A year later, the company lost power because of Hurricane Floyd and wasn’t able to ship their products.

In recognition of its perseverance through tough times and continued success operating in a rural area of the commonwealth, the company received the chairman’s award at the 2012 Resilience Awards presented by the Initiative for Business in Society at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.

Over the years, the company has adapted to changing technology. Rabil recalls that, after the business got a fax machine, the first order was from Korea. Deliveries in the family’s station wagon have been replaced by a FedEx truck. Like many businesses, Hubbard Peanut also has embraced social media. Its Facebook page has more than 2,000 followers and features pictures of customers showing off their Hubs peanuts in faraway places like California and Paris.

“We expanded our product line and continued to do things in the same manner that my parents did as far as attention to detail, quality and taking care of our customers and making sure we did transition with technology as needed,” Rabil says.

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