Texas is a culture unto itself, and Jerry Grisaffi is banking on the rest of the world’s infatuation with the Lone Star State. “The Texas name is one of the most legendary in American history; it’s been around for 175 years,” he says. “It was its own country at one time, and the only state that was an actual republic.” His company, Republic of Texas Brands, Inc. (OTC: RTXB) owns the trademark rights to “The Republic of Texas” and is creating a line of uniquely Texas products such as barbecue sauces, condiments, meats, spirits and alcoholic beverage mixes.
An entrepreneur for more than 20 years, running startup companies is old hat for Grisaffi. He spent several years operating an automobile dealership before moving on to the restaurant business. “That was neat but the hours were horrible, so I got out and started doing food deals,” he says. In the late-‘80s he founded Bounty of the Sea (a processed seafood company) and he invented the tuna fish hotdog and tried to market it, primarily at Whole Foods stores, but the idea was ahead of its time. “Today, it would probably work well but it was was kind of tough back then because Whole Foods had only been in business about four years. Another of his companies, a GPS firm called Tracking Corporation, was in business for a few years before being bought out, and he was also an owner-operator of a House of Pies franchise.
“I see myself as the turnaround guy for a great name,” Grisaffi says of recently taking the helm at Republic of Texas Brands. “I think we can build this into something really neat and we are having a lot of fun with it right now too.”
Opportunist: How did you become involved with Republic of Texas Brands?
Jerry: We came up with an idea for a barbecue deal called Legends Foods, which was centered around sports legends. That really didn’t have the right ring to it, so we decided to reinvent ourselves. We were trying to come up with a name for barbecue and Texas and we discovered that the republicoftexas.com name was available from an entity in Australia. We negotiated with the owner and bought the URL name. That opened the door to our thinking what else can we do with this?
We decided to trademark the name and initially develop a line of BBQ products that would be manufactured and distributed throughout Texas. The Republic of Texas BBQ was born and will offer smoked brisket, barbecue sauce, chicken, turkey, pork ribs, and other products.
Opportunist: It has been said that your company’s primary asset is its logo and trademark. Please tell us about that.
Jerry: It carries significant interest and emotional attachment to a broad base of potential customers. Our goal is to exploit the legendary status and pride of Texas. That being said, Republic of Texas Brands will license the use of the logo and collect royalties on products sold under that logo. There are lots of promotional tie-ins we can do with the various Texas dates and timelines, such as 1845, for example, when Texas became a state. Somebody called yesterday and wanted to use the name on blue jeans. There’s so much we can do with this brand.
Opportunist: Will Republic of Texas create its own products?
Jerry: We have no interest in product creation, manufacture, or distribution but, in some cases, we will establish wholly-owned subsidiaries to rebrand and reposition existing products and bring these to market under the Republic of Texas brand.
Opportunist: Please tell us about your subsidiaries.
Jerry: Republic of Texas Brands will initially own and operate three subsidiaries: Republic of Texas Beverage Company, which will sell Vodka and Tequila in the spirits market, Republic of Texas BBQ, Inc., which will sell smoked meats and poultry products, and Republic of Texas Steaks (RTS) which will sell raw meat and poultry that we process.
We also plan to license our logo (trademark) to other companies that have quality products that can be repositioned in the marketplace with our brand. Each of those divisions will pay us a licensing fee and royalty on everything that bears the Republic of Texas brand.
Opportunist: Tell us about your spirits line.
Jerry: We have a Republic of Texas brand of tequila. Our logo and “1824” will be on the bottle. That’s a significant date in the state’s history. We’ve got an August 5 launch coming up for our vodka and tequila. We know it’s going to be good because we already have a distributor and the first truckload to be launched through stores. We will launch it in the Dallas area first and then spread pretty quickly throughout the state.
We will be formally introducing our line at the Texas Package Stores Association Convention in August. We’ve talked with a few stores in Houston, Austin and San Antonio who have shown interest in our products. We are really excited that this has the potential to put us on the shelves and get the name out there quickly.
Opportunist: What milestones would you like to see the company accomplish during the remainder of 2012?
Jerry: We already inked a deal, which we finished up last week, for a whole line of Republic of Texas meats—corn-fed and rib eyes and filets and so forth. We will offer these products on our e-commerce site and hope to attract a small portion of a very large market. We heard that two of our soon-to-be competitors, Omaha Steaks and Kansas City Steaks, combined did over $500 million in sales and we just want a little piece of that. Texas and steaks go together. [Laughs]
There are some amazing markets and niches we can get into. Lots of folks buy products online. I heard the other day that online shopping did $5 billion in revenue last year. If we play our cards right and do all the social media networking correctly, I believe we can influence a wide audience of people to go to our Republic of Texas website when they’re looking to buy quality products produced in Texas.
Hopefully, our stock will appreciate when people become aware of us and start to say, “Wow, we ought to look at this company.” We know liquor sells and so does barbecue. Tequila is a $1.8 billion market in the United States, and nearly $700 million of that is in Texas. We are launching our spirits line in a state that drinks tequila like crazy. [Laughs]
I think the direction we are going is great. We have repositioned the company and attracted seasoned executives who have run multimillion-dollar companies to join our advisory board. They are committed to working with senior management and assist in taking the company to the next level. Our future is bright.
Leslie Stone is an award-winning writer/editor with more than two decades of experience covering business, finance and lifestyle issues for newspapers, magazines and online publications. Originally from Virginia, she currently resides in the Orlando area.
www.republicoftexas.com - OTC Markets: RTXB