“Our story all starts on November 22, 1949, Rufus and Juanita Kiolbassa started a small meatpacking company and over the years it would become one of Texas' largest sausage manufacturers.”
Prior to 1949, Rufus was co-founder of Melton Provision Company, whose main business was slaughtering cattle and goats. Kiolbassa Provision Company was founded on the principle of producing only quality sausage products. Their products were sold to independent grocers in the San Antonio area. Rufus’ cousins, George and Leon, were his key salesmen, delivering the sausage to area vendors. Sadly, ten years later, Rufus was faced with health challenges. His son Robert “Bobby” Kiolbassa left St. Mary’s University, one semester short of graduating, to take on the responsibilities of the fledgling company.
Bobby kept the company going, faithfully supplying their customers with premium sausage. The purchase of slaughter facilities from Beef House, Inc. in 1978, allowed the company to sell premium cuts of beef and pork. In the 1970’s, Kiolbassa became a part of the San Antonio landscape and the plant at 1325 South Brazos Street was a fixture of the West Side. Customer demand for the family’s sausage products, including their Polish and Mexican-style Chorizo steadily grew.
The 1980s brought about extraordinary changes at the Kiolbassa Provision Company. Bobby’s sister, Sandra Kiolbassa, joined the company in 1985, and in 1987, Bobby’s son Michael Kiolbassa joined the company as a plant manager. Before that, Michael completed college and spent two years in the banking industry, learning the intricacies of finance, preparing him to manage various aspects of the business. In 1988, the company began packaging their products for the first time, introducing them in Handy Andy Supermarkets.
Michael had a vision to make his sausage the top-selling brand in Texas, and the company got its chance in 1989, when a long-time customer introduced them to a local HEB supermarket manager who wanted to carry Kiolbassa Sausage. HEB gave Kiolbassa five stores to carry their product in San Antonio. After a year’s test, HEB expanded the Kiolbassa line to all their local supermarkets. In-store demonstrations and aggressive marketing expanded Kiolbassa’s reach as far as Austin and Laredo. Throughout the 1990’s, Kiolbassa distributed product to Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, West Texas and the Rio Grande Valley.
Sales grew as Kiolbassa began advertising on television. People began to see their product label, and learned what to look for. In the summer of 2001, the company aligned with San Antonio CBS-affiliate, KENS-TV, for their Backyard Barbecues every Friday during the summer. A lucky winner receives a barbecue dinner for 50, featuring Kiolbassa Sausage. The meal is served during a live weathercast from the site. The Backyard Barbecue was the only medium used to introduce Kiolbassa’s All-Beef-Jalapeño sausage, their first new product in five years, which quickly became a San Antonio favorite. In 2002, Kiolbassa joined forces with WOAI-TV and began sponsoring WOAI-TV’s Kiolbassa High School Tailgate Sendoffs. Also in 2002, the company began television advertising in markets across Texas including Corpus Christi and the Rio Grande Valley.
A very important part of the company’s mission is to be a model corporate citizen. Rufus and Juanita were dedicated to helping those who were less fortunate and they set a great example for the company with their generosity. Their example is alive today and the company is an active community partner donating or selling at cost hundreds of pounds of sausage for church festivals and community events.
When Juanita Kiolbassa died in 1999, the company structure was changed to its current organization, with Robert as CEO, Michael as President and Sandra as Vice-President. Robert and Sandra’s sister, Barbara Kiolbassa Britton, is the company Secretary/Treasurer.
Members of the Kiolbassa Family are active in the community. In 2003, St. Mary’s University recognized Robert Kiolbassa as a Distinguished Alumnus. Sandra and Barbara are involved in many organizations including the Catholic Daughters of America, where Barbara is a regent. Michael is active in various civic and social organizations, including the Texas Cavaliers, the Fiesta San Antonio Commission, and Junior Achievement.
In 2009, Kiolbassa continues its legacy of giving to the community by sponsoring many events. Kiolbassa has become the official sausage to the Houston Astros, Six Flags Fiesta Texas and is a proud member of GO TEXAN. Also, Kiolbassa can be seen throughout the year hosting “Back Yard Barbeques” and “Friday Night Fever” on San Antonio’s Local WOAI News.
Kiolbassa still strives to be the best sausage in Texas, keeping true to their unconditional guarantee: “The best sausage you’ve ever eaten or your money back— guaranteed.”