Lester “Spike” Cavender of Harrison (Boone County) created Cavender’s All-Purpose Greek Seasoning with his son Ronald Stephen Cavender in the late 1960s. It was adapted from a recipe by a Greek friend of Cavender’s who was a chef. For many years, the seasoning was shared only with their friends and family until they began selling it in 1969. Since 1978, Cavender’s All Purpose Greek Seasoning has been manufactured and sold by the S-C Seasoning Company, Inc. In May 1988, the company moved from its original location to a larger facility in Harrison. By 2015, a third generation of the Cavender family was producing and selling their world-famous Greek seasoning.
Lester Robert “Spike” Cavender was born in Cooper, Delta County, Texas, on September 3, 1913, the second of five children of William John Cavender and Lula Reedy Pemelton Cavender. Growing up in Texas and Oklahoma, Cavender led a colorful life as a wild game hunter and entrepreneur. In 1940, Cavender moved to Arkansas, first working in Benton (Saline County). Cavender married Katherine Sarita Simmons on January 5, 1941, in Lonoke County. Their son Ronald Stephen (Steve) Cavender was born on November 19, 1943, in Little Rock (Pulaski County). The family moved to the Ozark Mountains, where Cavender ran root beer stands and a Honda motorcycle shop. In the 1950s, Cavender and his wife operated the Well-Worth Dime Store in Harrison at 116 N. Willow. The store was destroyed by the Crooked Creek Flood on May 7, 1961, but was later reopened in the same place.
While in Texas, Cavender and his brother Lowell had befriended a Greek chef who ran a popular steak house. The chef there cooked with a special seasoning mix, the ingredients of which were a closely guarded secret. Reportedly, when Cavender was 17, his Greek friend in Texas died and willed his seasoning recipe to Cavender.
On July 4, 1968, Cavender and son Steve sold their first two batches of “Spike’s Secret Stuff” to the only two stores in Harrison at the time. Each man chipped in $258 to make their first batch in a washtub on their back porch. The name “Spike’s Secret Stuff” was later changed to Cavender’s because the name “Spike’s” was taken by another brand. On July 4, 1970, the Cavenders mixed their first commercial batch and sold it to local stores across northern Arkansas. The following September, Cavender entered his product in the Dallas Trade Mart in Texas, where it attracted the attention of sales representatives and food brokers.
On September 25, 1978, the S-C Seasoning Company was incorporated. By April 1978, the washtub was replaced by a concrete mixer with a stainless steel tub in place of its original iron tub. By May 1985, Cavender’s was reportedly shipping about ninety-six percent of its product out of state. Finding widespread success, Cavender’s seasoning was sold across the United States and in Europe, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Ecuador, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.
In May 1988, Cavender’s moved from its original location to a larger facility on Industrial Park Road in Harrison. In 1991, a salt-free version of Cavender’s Greek seasoning was added to the product line. In the twenty-first century, S-C Seasoning Company manufactures four to five tons of Cavender’s All Purpose Greek Seasoning daily for distribution in all fifty states and Canada. By 2015, the company was being run by Lisa Cavender and her sister Cara Wohlgemuth, the granddaughters of Spike Cavender, and had about a ten-person staff working out of a 10,000-square-foot facility in Harrison. The original family store on Willow in Harrison is used as a small gift shop.
Spike Cavender died in 1992. His wife Katherine died in 1983, and their son Steve died in 2008. All are buried next to each other in Harrison’s Maplewood Cemetery.