Updated May 27 at 7:27pm

A nutty career choice then and now

By Patrick Anderson
PBN Staff Writer

Cars or nuts? When Peter Kaloostian arrived in Rhode Island from his native Armenia in the early 20th century, he was advised to stake out a future in one of those two then-high-growth, emerging markets. More

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A nutty career choice then and now

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Cars or nuts? When Peter Kaloostian arrived in Rhode Island from his native Armenia in the early 20th century, he was advised to stake out a future in one of those two then-high-growth, emerging markets.

More than a century and four generations later, Virginia & Spanish Peanut Co. President Candace Kaloostian doesn’t know why those were the only two career choices her great grandfather considered.

And she doesn’t know why he chose nuts.

But while peanut roasting never reached the commercial heights of the American automobile industry, it worked out well for the Kaloostian family, which has run Virginia & Spanish Peanut with remarkable stability since 1913.

On roasting days, which include every Monday, the smell of hot nuts has become familiar to anyone in the blocks around Virginia & Spanish’s two-story wooden factory on Dexter Street in the city’s West End.

“A lot of people tell me stories about being 5 years old smelling the peanuts roasting, or how my grandfather would give them bags of nuts,” Candace Kaloostian said. “We still have roasters close to 70 years old, and they work so much better than the new ones, which wouldn’t last 50 years. Even on a small level, if we say we are thinking of painting the office another color, the customers say ‘Don’t do that.’ ”

Of course, like any company that’s survived the cultural, technological and economic shifts of 100 years, Virginia and Spanish Peanut has grown with the times.

Raw and roasted nuts remain the foundation of the company’s sales, but they are now supplemented by a number of other foods, including a range of dried fruits, trail mixes, seeds, snacks, candies and peanut butter.

Peter Kaloostian may not have known what to make of the dried mango and wasabi peas the company now sells, but they are not going away.

For a Providence company, the name Virginia and Spanish may seem odd, but it’s not to those in the peanut world.

Virginia is the name of the most commonly consumed type of peanut, the irregular, hour-glass shaped object with a tan skin found in ballparks and taverns across the country. They are mostly grown in Virginia and North Carolina.

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