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Woman-Owned Small Business Award Named for Eugenia Duke

Woman-Owned Small Business Award Named for Eugenia Duke

Early Greenville Entrepreneur Leaves Legacy for Women

Greenville, SC —Eugenia Duke, one of Greenville, South Carolina’s earliest businesswomen, will be commemorated on May 1, 2018 with the kick-off of National Small Business Week.  Presented by the Greenville Chamber and CommunityWorks, the Excellence in Entrepreneurship Small Business Awards will be announced during a banquet at Cascades at Verdae from 5:30 to 7:30 pm.

Andrew Smart, CEO and President of Duke Brands, has led the efforts to recognize Duke Sandwich and Duke’s Mayonnaise founder Eugenia Duke for her efforts as an entrepreneur and businesswoman in an era where women were not even allowed to vote.  Mrs. Duke began a sandwich-making business in her kitchen on Manly Street in Greenville, SC in 1917 and quickly found success selling sandwiches to the soldiers arriving at Camp Sevier for training during WWI. 

“We are presenting the award for the Eugenia Duke Woman-Owned Business of the Year during the celebration of small businesses in our region.  Mrs. Duke was a pioneer of female-owned business in 1917 and she is an inspiration for women who are also following their dreams of business ownership today,” said Andrew Smart.  “It is fitting to recognize Mrs. Duke by naming this award for her while celebrating a current woman-owned business.” 

Earlier this month, Duke Brands also honored Mrs. Duke’s legacy by naming the bridge behind the Peace Center and RiverPlace the “Eugenia Duke Bridge.”  A permanent historical plaque was unveiled detailing her accomplishments.

More information about the Excellence in Entrepreneurship Small Business Awards can be found at www.greenvillechamber.org. Eugenia Duke’s sandwich recipes are still served at three Duke Sandwich locations in Greenville, SC. To learn more about Duke Brands and the Duke family of foods, stop by www.dukebrands.com.

A Brief History of Eugenia Duke
One hundred years ago a woman, with little more than a family mayonnaise recipe and a dream, launched a business in the Upstate that would become a great southern success story.  In 1917, Eugenia Duke began making mayonnaise and sandwich spreads in her kitchen on Manly Street and set about selling her homemade sandwiches on the streets of downtown Greenville for a dime apiece.  Her deliciously simple spreads were an instant hit. The business took off when an influx of soldiers arrived to train for WWI at the newly built Camp Sevier, a National Guard Training Camp that operated from 1917 until early 1919.  It was at Camp Sevier that her legacy began.

Popular sandwiches such as egg salad, chicken salad and pimento cheese all made with the family mayonnaise recipe were sold in downtown drug stores, including Carpenter Brothers, Community Drug Store and Greenville Pharmacy.  She opened Duke’s Tea Room in the historic Ottaray Hotel, where she sold her sandwiches and a variety of side dishes.  Duke Sandwiches were also sold in bustling textile mills.

As her business continued to grow, she opened an office on South Main Street, next to the current Army-Navy Store, and began manufacturing mayonnaise in an old coach factory building next to the Reedy River.  The Eugenia Duke Bridge will overlook that facility, now known as the Wyche Pavillion.  In 1929 she sold her mayonnaise plant to the C.F. Sauer Company, a family-owned and operated business, and the recipes for her sandwich spreads to her bookkeeper, J. Allen Hart.  Hart was married to Gladys Smart and ultimately sold Duke Sandwich to his brother-in-law, Loran Smart, Sr.  Duke Sandwich remains in the Smart family with the third generation now operating it. 

Eugenia Duke, who was born in Columbus, GA in 1881, the youngest of 10 children, passed away in 1971 at age 90.

Chris Collins