In 1984, Fast Fixin Foods was started with two freezers full of breaded chicken fingers stowed away inside a little building just off U.S. Highway 431 in Boaz – a small shell of what the business has become today.
Now, as Rick Ragsdale, owner of Fast Fixin Foods, celebrates his 35th year in business, he said it’s hard to believe how prosperous it’s been.
“We’re just very fortunate,” he said. “God’s blessed us to be able to stay here for 35 years. I’ve been very fortunate to have good employees. Most of them have stayed with me for a long time and have helped me grow my business tremendously.”
Ragsdale said his business started out as a delivery service only. When people across the area began to want breaded chicken fingers, he installed two freezers in a “little bitty building” and then watched business boom.
“I was delivering chicken to grocery stores and grocery warehouses, and people wanted to buy the breaded chicken fingers,” Ragsdale said. “We started out with just the Eastwood brand of chicken fingers. I went to work for that guy when I was about 13 years old in a grocery store. But when he started up Eastwood, I was selling his product on the road and people, locally, wanted to start buying them. So, I just opened up and started selling chicken fingers as a the one item, and it’s grown from there.”
Before long, Ragsdale started selling vegetables, potatoes and fries and assortment of canned goods.
After he got into the wholesale business and was delivering a lot of items from the store, Ragsdale decided to sell the wholesale chicken delivery business and do retail only. Then, about 12 years ago, he said Fast Fixin Foods got into the equipment business.
“It just kind of went along with the food,” he said on the decision to start offering equipment. “People would ask a pot and a pan, or a fryer and grill. Just the stuff we sell, that’s what they use in restaurants, grocery store delis, softball complexes and places like that.”
Fast Fixin Foods serves a large area, but it isn’t limited to Sand Mountain. Ragsdale said some customers travel hundreds of miles to find what they need in Boaz.
“People come here from Mentone, some places out of Georgia; I have people come from Florida and take coolers full of stuff back home with them,” Ragsdale said. “We’ve just been here for so long, the equipment side brings in people from all over the Southeast.”
Outside Fast Fixin Foods, Ragsdale works for Gordon Food Service as a sales representative, selling food to restaurants and others all over Northeast Alabama. He said he worked for Red Diamond for more than 32 years until the company sold its food service business to Gordon nearly two years ago. For most people, juggling a full-time job with a big business would be difficult, but Ragsdale said his wonderful employees make it easy.
“Like I said, I’ve been blessed with good employees,” he said. “… They do most everything here.”
But without his customers, he said the business’s success would have never lasted so long.
“We really appreciate the business,” he said. “Without [the customers] we wouldn’t be here. We just want to thank everyone that has helped us along the way. By the good grace of God, we’ve been able to survive for 35 years and continue to grow.”