Cackalacky: (n.) slang term for the Carolinas, both North and South.
For Page Skelton, cackalacky is more than that simple definition. To the self-titled “corporate guy” turned barbeque cook, cackalacky represents North Carolina’s spirit.
The word symbolizes Carolinians’ tendency to make do with what they have to create something bigger than themselves. Combine that with a desire to collaborate and determination in the face of failure, and you’ve got cackalacky.
Skelton remembers the first original spice sauce he made and the almost random ingredients he added that created a mouth-watering flavor.
“It’s all these different ingredients coalescing together and that’s kind of how I feel about we do as a brand,” Skelton said. “Through my eyes, our customers are all kinds of different people, all age groups, all walks of life, and everybody is just trying to make it.”
In 1993, Skelton moved to Chapel Hill with his wife, Caroline, after meeting at West Virginia University. He was a a telecommunications middle manager when he first started making his signature sauces.
He started bringing the sauce to work, and friends and co-workers began buying them from him. From then on, “it was like water going downhill,” Skelton said, as he got the sauce bottled, started going to trade shows and eventually taking days off from work to… work.
“I wasn’t very happy doing when I was doing ‘legitimate work,’ and I was super-duper happy when I was traveling and selling our sauce,” Skelton said.
The sauce slowly grew into a thriving business with multiple products, including spiced nuts, a beer series and collaborations with both Cheerwine and Biscuitville.
Based in Pittsboro, Cackalacky products are offered at grocery stores around the state and prized by local businesses who participate in Cackalacky’s wholesale business.
Besides these tasty creations, Cackalacky, Inc. might be even more famous for its name. Skelton credits a clever marketing trick for its popularity.
“Everywhere we went, we started handing out our Cackalacky bumper stickers and t-shirts and, later on, hats, as well,” he said. “We’re almost better known for bumper sticker and our name. I often think that maybe we overthought it. We didn’t have to do the sauce or the peanuts, we could just do the bumper stickers.”
The name “Cackalacky” is certainly a central part of Skelton’s story. The origins of the name are fuzzy, and while many people have proposed theories, there doesn’t seem to be one that sticks.
When Skelton was first starting to pass out his bottles of original spice sauce in 2001, he discovered that the cackalacky domain was available on the Internet. In fact, it seemed no one had used the name before for commerce.
“We like to think we rescued the name from relative obscurity and put it to use it for commercial purposes — and, of course, altruistic purposes later,” said Skelton.
While Cackalacky is a business, at the heart of the company is an appreciation for people and delicious flavor. Skelton feels connected to his customers and takes every chance he can get to give back to a community that has supported him over the years.
“It’s really flattering,” Skelton said. “Every dollar matters and every purchase matters, so when people are kind enough to buy our stuff, they’re giving us a vote of confidence. That’s huge to me, because (otherwise) I would be doing something entirely different.”