Scott Gray’s zest for doing the right thing flavors his work and his personal life.

As the owner of Wildman’s Spice Company, the Auglaize County Farm Bureau member strives to find the freshest products for his line of spices, extracts and seasonings. As a churchgoer and mission trip participant, he’s grateful that his business is successful enough to feed his appetite for doing good.

Isaac Gray adds onion to the Chef’s Seasoning spice mix.
Isaac Gray adds onion to the Chef’s Seasoning spice mix.

In the early ’70s, when Gray’s father, Rod, began carrying the Wildman’s line of spices in their general store in the village of New Hampshire, he never dreamed that succeeding generations would earn their living selling spices. The elder Gray, a farmer, thought the products would be a nice addition to Gray’s Orange Barn, a small store the family owned that sold cheese, meat and oranges that his uncle grew in Florida.

At that time, the spice company was owned by a group of engineers who had worked together at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton. The friends had purchased the business from the Wildman family. In addition to spices, they made toothpastes, skin creams and lotions.

In the mid-1970s the owners approached Rod Gray about buying the company. “He told them ‘Absolutely not,’’’ said Scott Gray. “They kept on him, until finally, dad offered them a price. They took it and here we are.”

Scott Gray started at Wildman’s, which the family moved to a historic building in New Hampshire, after graduating from Wittenberg University in 1981. He focused on upgrading the building so it could function more efficiently. The family continues to farm about 500 acres in Auglaize County. “It’s been a journey,” he said. “It’s been a fun journey with a lot of hard work. This business has been very good to me and my family.”

Today, they bottle, label and package goods at the company headquarters. They also create and blend a line of seasonings, including their wildly popular Chef’s Seasoning that flies off the shelf during grilling season. It’s a family favorite, too. He and his wife, Kim, sprinkle it on meat, salads and add it to soups.

Skyla (last name withheld) boxes 5 pound bags of Chef’s Seasoning spice mix.
Skyla, boxes 5 pound bags of Chef’s Seasoning spice mix.

“That’s what makes spice companies different from one another – their blends,” he said. “I always start out with the best stuff I can buy.”

Working through importers on the East Coast, the Grays procure spices from all over the world. They buy vanilla from Madagascar, cinnamon from Vietnam and nutmeg from Granada. Most of the herbs they use are grown in California but they use thyme from Poland and marjoram leaves from Egypt. “There are a lot of spice importers to buy from,” Scott Gray said. “We’re very choosy.”

While some companies continually look for ways to add heat to their rubs and blends, Scott Gray prefers a different approach. “I like a little heat but I always prefer to have more flavor,” he said.

Blending seasonings is a bit of an art, he said. “There are very strong flavors and very subtle flavors. You’ve got to know what percentages to use. It’s pretty easy to get too much or not enough. When you do it right, you can end up with bold, beautiful flavors.”

The focus on procuring the finest herbs and spices really shows in Wildman’s products, said Elsie Troyer, manager of the Mount Hope Country Health Store in Millersburg. She’s a fan of his parsley because it’s fresh and flavorful. Many of her customers rave about Wildman’s Mexican Spice, a zippy blend of spices, garlic and salt. “His product is a quality product,” she said.

These days, Gray’s oldest son, Isaac, handles much of the blending. He joined the business in 2013 after graduating from Bowling Green State University and working for a short time in marketing. He said learning the business and working alongside his father has been rewarding.

“We’ve had to transition from father-and-son relationship to more of a coworker relationship. It’s not without its challenges. We end up talking about the business at family get-togethers,” he said. “I really like the work. It’s a small business so you do whatever needs done.”

Scott Gray would like to see his two other children, daughter, Abbey, a nurse, and son, Luke, a student at Ohio State University, join the business as well. For now, he and Abbey have the chance to work together on mission trips.

His commitment to mission work has inspired many of his friends and business colleagues to help others, said Wynand de Wet of One Plus God Ministries in Marion. “The word I would use to describe Scott is sacrificial,” de Wet said. “He gives until it hurts. He sacrifices family time and resources and energy. His enthusiasm and his commitment to do more encourages people.”

Gray is grateful that his business has provided a means to support his family and his passion to help others. He also routinely goes to Haiti to help build schools and churches. His faith permeates everything he does.

“It changed my whole view on life. I started working for God instead of me. It doesn’t make sense that something like this exists in New Hampshire, Ohio,” he said. “I’d like to take the credit, but I’m not that good.”

Wildman’s Spice Company was featured on Our Ohio television.

Featured Image Caption:  Issac Gray, left, and Scott Gray stand in front of the Cox Process Company Spice Mill used by Wildman’s from 1915 until 1977. 

Labor has always been an issue, mainly because we are a seasonal operation. So that's a challenge finding somebody who only wants to work three months out of a year, sometimes up to six months.
Mandy Way's avatar
Mandy Way

Way Farms

Farm Labor Resources
I appreciate the benefit of having a strong voice in my corner. The extras that are included in membership are wonderful, but I'm a member because of the positive impact to my local and state agricultural communities.
Ernie Welch's avatar
Ernie Welch

Van Wert County Farm Bureau

Strong communities
I see the value and need to be engaged in the community I live in, to be a part of the decision-making process and to volunteer with organizations that help make our community better.
Matt Aultman's avatar
Matt Aultman

Darke County Farm Bureau

Leadership development
The plan we are on is great. It’s comparable to my previous job's plan, and we are a sole proprietor.
Kevin Holy's avatar
Kevin Holy

Geauga County Farm Bureau

Ohio Farm Bureau Health Benefits Plan
We work terrifically with the Ashtabula County Farm Bureau, hosting at least one to two outreach town hall events every year to educate new farmers and existing farmers on traditional CAUV and woodlands.
David Thomas's avatar
David Thomas

Ashtabula County Auditor

CAUV: Past, present and future
Knowing that horticulture is under the agriculture umbrella and having Farm Bureau supporting horticulture like it does the rest of ag is very important.
Jared Hughes's avatar
Jared Hughes

Groovy Plants Ranch

Groovy Plants Ranch
If it wasn't for Farm Bureau, I personally, along with many others, would not have had the opportunity to meet with our representatives face to face in Washington.
Austin Heil's avatar
Austin Heil

Hardin County Farm Bureau

Washington, D.C. Leadership Experience
So many of the issues that OFBF and its members are advocating for are important to all Ohioans. I look at OFBF as an agricultural watchdog advocating for farmers and rural communities across Ohio.
Mary Smallsreed's avatar
Mary Smallsreed

Trumbull County Farm Bureau

Advocacy
Suggested Tags: