Capps Sausage going strong after 56 years
By Morgan Bryce
Starting in 1960, Opelika-based sausage maker Capps Sausage has been making some of the area’s finest sausage. People from Opelika and places as far away as New Hampshire and Texas come to the little wooden shack in Beauregard to pick up what some claim as the “world’s greatest sausage.”
The Capps sausage-making tradition began unconventionally, as explained by Billy Capps, the former operator and manager of the business.
“In 1960, my daddy took some hogs to the market, and they didn’t offer him nothing,” Billy said. “He loaded those hogs and brought them back home. My daddy and his family had already been making sausage for years, and he figured he could make more off the hogs by just making them into sausage.”
Billy, who grew up working in the business, said his father, Bill Sr., never expected the business to take off the way it did.
“At first, my daddy only had the sausage at around Christmastime, and after a few years it got to be Thanksgiving to Christmas and eventually the first weekend of November to the end of May,” Billy said. “As the demand for the sausage grew, my daddy tried to accommodate it, and the best way to do it was having it available for a few months out of the year.”
Word of mouth was Bill’s preferred means of marketing, as the reputation and appreciation for the delectable sausage grew.
The Capps family managed to do both sausage-making and farming, but by the 70s, the sausage business was lucrative enough where the Capps’ could rely solely on that business for their livelihood.
In the late 70s, the Capps purchased nearby Dupree Grocery, and Bill and Billy ran the store for several years. Bill sold his portion of the grocery business in 1982, and ran the sausage operation by himself until Billy sold the grocery store in 1995. For the next five years, Billy and later his son Trey helped run the sausage business until Bill’s retirement in 2000.
“When I took over, my dad had laid a solid foundation for me,” Billy said. “I didn’t change much about the running of the business, except the hours and casing for the sausage.”
Now, 16 years later, Billy is still involved in the sausage-making process, but passed the full-time duties on to Trey in 2012, who has continued to grow and expand the business.
The recipe the Capps’ use stemmed from a conversation Bill had with a family friend and former meat distributor, Benny Edwards, about how to make sausage.
“My daddy and his folks were visiting with Benny, and they eventually got to talking about making sausage. Benny ended up giving them the recipe, which is what we still use today. We’ve only had to make a handful of tweaks over the years to make it better,” Billy said.
Though Trey only sells sausage from October to April, there is still much planning and working in advance.
“Me and dad will start making the sausage the week that we open, and do it every week, depending on how much we need,” Trey said. “We do 220-pound batches at a time, and with my dad’s help, we can do 1800 pounds from 7 in the morning till about 1 or so.”
After they process the meat and put the meat into casings, they take the sausage to the smokehouse, which sits adjacent to the store. There, the sausages are cold smoked overnight to give the sausage its signature flavor.
“We used to do all hickory for the smoking wood,” Billy said. “But hickory is kinda strong by itself, so we started using pecan and oak to balance out the smoke flavor a bit.”
The next morning, Trey and Billy go to the smokehouse, and put all of the meat in the cold room, to preserve the flavor and keep the sausage fresh until the store opens.
The full menu that the Capps have includes: cheese, bacon, smoked link sausage, patty, baby-size fresh link and plain or cheese and pepper fresh link. Trey said he may look to start expanding his horizons and tackle some additional kinds of sausage.
“I’m on a trial run of making Chorizo sausage for a Mexican restaurant in Auburn,” Trey said. “I also want to try making Boudin, which is something I see that we don’t have here. I’m always looking for new things to try, and it keeps people interested.” (Boudin is a Cajun stuffed sausage-rice-spicy seasonings delicacy.)
Even after passing on the business to Trey, Billy still comes to help him whenever he needs it, and the close bond between father and son is quite evident.
“We might fuss, but it’s over in five minutes,” Trey said laughingly. “Then after that, you go about your business like it never happened. Growing up with a family tradition like this gives you an opportunity to spend time with your family, which is something that not many jobs let you do.”
Also near and dear to the hearts of the Capps is their customers, and according to Trey, they make the experience invaluable.
“Our customers are amazing,” Trey said. “I’ve seen license plates from all over, New Hampshire to Texas, Florida to Kentucky and Alabama to Oregon. They are dedicated, and always make sure to let us know how much they enjoy our products. It makes it all feel worth it.”
Salem resident and Capps customer Samuel Gullatte gave reasons as to why he loves the sausage so much.
“It’s a family-owned company, and they make the best sausage, period. I grew up eating it, and its been a part of my life for as long as I can remember,” Gullatte said.
Looking ahead, Trey said he sees a bright future for his business.
“The demand for our products consistently grows,” Trey said. “I don’t know if my son Brady will be interested in doing this one day, but I know personally that I plan to keep making sausage as long as I can.”
The Capps will open for business on Friday, Oct. 7, and will run through the last weekend of April. To place an order for sausage, call Trey at (334) 750-8970. The business is located at 555 Lee Road 100.