Original Charcoal Seasoning
The Gaston's Story
After faithfully serving his country in World War II, J.M. Gaston, affectionately known as “Jim” or “Mr. G” by many, decided to pursue the American Dream and start his own business in Selma, Alabama. Selma was a bustling, up-and-coming city at the time and he wanted to build a place that would provide for the needs of his growing community and value the personal relationships developed with his loyal customers.
Fueled by hard work, dedication to the community, and a true love for people, Jim and his brother Alvin opened the doors of Gaston’s Grocery at the corner of Lawrence Street and Selma Avenue in 1948. He had no idea the impact his vision would have on the people and the community he served over the next four decades.
Jim started the business with $248 that he obtained by selling one of his cows to launch his dream. Gaston’s began as a small, family-run grocery store providing dry goods and food staples to the citizens of Selma, Alabama and the surrounding rural areas. This was an era in time before grocery stores became supermarkets. Many of the local grocer’s did not carry perishable goods such as produce, meats, and the like.
However, Jim’s grocery store was strategically located within close proximity to other vendors and merchants, and this is an important element of the Gaston story to remember.
In 1957, Jim was approached by the Graves Family who was affiliated with IGA (Independent Grocers Association). They wanted to partner with him to provide wholesale buying power and local distribution that would allow him to offer a full line of grocery staples at lower prices – including perishable goods such as fresh produce and choice meats.
This appeared to be a sound business move to Jim, so he moved into a larger merchant space located at the corner of Selma Avenue and Saint Ann Street to allow for the increase in inventory items that he would now be carrying. One problem though…
He didn’t have a butcher or produce manager for the new store space!
Henry and James
Enter Henry Seale and James Harrison…
Mr. Seale was a local butcher and Mr. Harrison was a young man looking for an opportunity to grow into. Jim hired them both and they opened the doors to this new location in 1957. Mr. Seale brought with him a version of the charcoal seasoning that so many loyal customers and fans now affectionately know as Gaston’s Seasoning.
Although the original charcoal seasoning formula was changed and modified over the first few years, it became a word-of-mouth legend in the Dallas County area. People would flock into Jim’s grocery store to get our charcoal seasoning sprinkled on the fine, hand-cut-to-order meats offered at our butcher counter. This was actually the only way to get it… It was never sold as a packaged, stand alone product. However, it could be requested for an extra 10 cents per pounds, on any of our fine meat selections.
Gaston's IGA Foodliner
In the Summer of 1963, tragedy struck as fire consumed and totally destroyed the second location of Gaston’s Grocery at Saint Ann Street and Selma Avenue. Jim needed to rebuild a new space for his rapidly growing business, and that’s exactly what he did. In 1964, Jim opened the doors to his third and final location of Gaston’s Grocery, but this time with a new name, Gaston’s IGA Foodliner.
Things were hopping now, business was strong and this amazing charcoal seasoning was bringing in new customers a plenty to the butcher counters of Gaston’s IGA Foodliner. For the next 30 years, Gaston’s would enjoy a robust business, anchored by our butcher shop, fresh and local produce selections, deli, and of course – Gaston’s Original Seasoning.
As competition increased locally and larger volume grocers entered the marketplace, our family’s grocery store was forced to close its door in January of 1993. Since then, many of our loyal customers wanted to where they could get that incredible, Gaston’s Original Charcoal Seasoning.
Our charcoal seasoning has been called gunpowder, magic dust, black dust, charcoal stuff…really too many things to name. So after dozens of requests over the years, we began packing the charcoal seasoning we used successfully for so many years at Gaston’s IGA.
Today, we are proud to offer if to YOU! We hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoy making it and grilling for our family and friends with it…