By Suet Lee-Growney, posted Mar 2, 2023 on BizFayetteville.com
“It’s so good, you can put it on a flip-flop and eat it,” said Carl Pringle, creator of Flip Flop barbecue sauce, as he claps his hands in excitement and laughs. “But the commercial story is that it is sweet on the front, the heat is on the back.”
Pringle, a Fayetteville resident since 1993, grew up in Washington D.C. Growing up, he could not imagine living in Fayetteville when he spent the summers here visiting family.
“To be honest, I used to come here during the summers, and I couldn’t stand Fayetteville because I thought it was so slow,” Pringle said. “But it’s the best move I’ve ever made.”
He decided to stay to raise his sons because of the family-friendly pace of the town, a stark contrast from the way he was brought up in his D.C. family home.
“I had three sons, and I didn’t want them to see what I saw (in D.C.),” he said. “It’s everybody on top of each other and not much room … Sometimes you have to get away from your normal to do something different.”
Pringle’s heart and soul beat within the community, which he thought was his calling in life, and it was this sense of community that gave rise to his barbecue sauce. The original Flip Flop sauce is his personal rendition of a traditional D.C.-style barbecue sauce.
“I looked up a recipe for a sauce that was made in the D.C. area, but when I tried to make it I didn’t have everything they had, so I substituted a few things,” he said. “It came up pretty good and I took it to the community. Well, everyone was like ‘Mr. Carl, we like this. You need to do something with this.’”
In one of his many advocacy works at community feedings and fighting hunger, he met a fellow community feeding activist Jonathan Dozier. Dozier, who did not usually have hotdogs as part of his dietary repertoire, asked for some ketchup to go with his meal when he got hungry at one of the events.
“‘(Pringle) says, ‘Yeah, we don’t do ketchup here, but I have some sauce,’” Dozier said. “So I said, ‘let’s put the sauce on there.’ At that point, I was basically hooked … This is incredible. I don’t eat this many hotdogs.”
Dozier not only ate one hotdog the first time he tried Pringle’s sauce — he ate four hotdogs and a hamburger to go with the sauce he became hooked on. Eventually he approached Pringle to propose a partnership. Together they worked to not only commercialize the product but also grew the brand from one to three sauces.
Currently, they are working to expand on the current line to include a diabetic-friendly sauce called “Flip Flop Free” and a rub to enhance the sauces.
“We want to try to create a sauce that won’t spike the glucose levels in the bodies,” Dozier said.
“That’s taking some time to do because sugar-free is really complicated and the formula. That’s where our growth is. That’s where we’re going.”
The inspiration behind the upcoming product is a personal one for both Pringle and Dozier.
“My son was diagnosed with diabetes; (Dozier’s) father has diabetes,” Pringle said.
Dozier is the chief executive officer of Flip Flop and Pringle’s partner. He was drawn to Pringle and felt a deep connection, and then decided to invest in him not only because he liked the sauce, but also because he also has a deep respect for Pringle as a person and his efforts in the community.
“He was feeding all of us out of his own pocket and that was pretty much all that I needed to know — that sealed the deal,” Dozier said. “It says a lot. That’s someone that I want to invest in. (Pringle) is a very giving man; a very generous man; a very kind man. And he’s been consistently that way. I’ve known him for a year and a half. We’ve worked steadily together. He’s always been consistent.”
Pringle’s motivation and inspiration to be a champion in fighting hunger within the Fayetteville community is his mother’s legacy.
“If I can touch somebody and help somebody, it gives me purpose,” Pringle said. “I’m just Bettye’s boy; Bettye was my mother. My mother passed away. She was very big in the community even before I knew about it. I learned a lot of things at her funeral. I wanted people to see that I was carrying her name. A lot of the stuff I do, I do it to honor my mother.”
His tenacity within the community feedings not only led him to connections, such as Dozier, but also people who connected him to get his bottles on shelves at local grocery stores such as Pate’s Farm Market, Kinlaw’s Supermarket, and Downtown Market of Fayetteville; but also the national chain grocer Food Lion.
“I actually had a friend I do community work with talk to Food Lion, one of the managers,” he said. “Eight months later, we had an agreement.”
Since then, Pringle has competed and won in local and national barbecue competitions and featured on national television on shows such as Tamron Hall Show.
Dozier said apart from expanding their product line, they are working to put their bottles on more national hypermarket shelves such as Publix, Harris Teeter, and eventually Walmart.
“We’ve been strategically growing our company with the support of others in relation to supporting us by connecting us with the right people,” Dozier said. “We are pushing towards strategic growth in Fayetteville and North Carolina. We like to be in the Southeast; we’d like to grow beyond that. It’s going to take some time, I know. It will take years.”
In the meantime, while Pringle continues to perfect his new products, he continues to focus on his community efforts.
“As the sauce grows, I want to do what I’m doing with the community,” Pringle said. “I pledge a percentage of what I do has to go back to the community, because if it were not for the community I wouldn’t have the sauce.”
Ten percent of all sauce sales go to Uncle Carl’s Safe Space, Pringle’s community outreach organization. Flip Flop barbecue sauces is available on FlipFlopBBQ.com, Amazon. com, Food Lion stores, Kinlaw’s Supermarket, Pate’s Farm Market, and Downtown Market Fayetteville.
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