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(Image: Paunchy Elephant)

Paunchy Elephant: Sharing family favorites from Marysville, WA with the world

In the practice of Feng Shui, it is commonly understood if you spot an elephant with its trunk up, it is a sign of good luck.

Such is the case for a small but growing, family business in Marysville, WA. Paunchy Elephant, S.P.C, owned by Tamyra McKay and her family, produces high-quality, organic lemonade, ice teas, and a home-made, signature barbecue sauce. You may know the one. The one with the stout orange elephant on the label and his trunk is pointing up! This cute little figure is the mascot for Paunchy Elephant, representing all they stand for as a family and bringing them good fortune too.

But luck is not the sole ingredient to their success, there are a few dashes of hard work thrown into this family business making age-old family recipes.

The birth of Paunchy Elephant began as a favor from McKay to her mom, who was nearing retirement from the Olympia School District. It started as a singular idea and a simple request: could she help her mom figure out selling her barbecue sauce in stores?

McKay’s mom had been making this popular sauce for over 20 years. With as many requests as she received for it, her thought leaned to a nice retirement side hustle. Upon researching the do’s and don’ts of creating a food brand, McKay soon discovered a lot more was involved than originally thought.

In addition to scaling up her mother’s recipe, she began experimenting with favorite drink recipes, primarily lemonade and teas, to accent the barbecue sauce. At first, this might seem like an unusual pairing but McKay explained it clearly.

“Our family is originally from the South, so for us, sitting outside enjoying barbecue, family time, and sweet drinks is second nature.”

And this is exactly the feeling the McKay family wishes to pass on to their customers through Paunchy Elephant. The feeling of fulfillment like those leisurely summer afternoons satiated with good food, good drinks, and good cheer. Paunchy Elephant hopes to bring this cheerful welfare (fortune) to you in a bottle of their sauce or beverages.

My favorite is the lavender and earl grey black tea, I find it a perfect mid-day pick me up. And the love going into this family barbecue sauce is experienced not only on mouth-watering food from the grill - but can be added to other dishes all year round. My family added it to a vegan, winter chili recipe, enhancing the savory and sweet flavors of this stew. With the first taste, I could not help but think about the care put into this sauce, as well as all their products, handmade from the Paunchy Elephant family (all nine of them - including mom and dad, brothers, and nephews) to mine.

Their care and integrity does not end with their products but extends into all aspects of their business and community. McKay stresses the importance of sustainability issues to her brand along with buying local, fair trade, and using organic ingredients. This mindset steered the decision to use glass bottles, making it easier for people to recycle them. Their labels are printed using water-based ink in a facility that uses a windmill to power for power. Much of the food waste inside the Paunchy kitchen is composted, adding to the forethought and detail to a more sustainable world.

In addition to environmental impact, Paunchy Elephant also reaches out to sustain their community, recently receiving a Social Purpose Corporation status. What this means is they prioritize social impact above maximizing profits. How they do this is seen in their ingredient choices but also mirrored by their community giving. They donate food and gift baskets to local organizations such as FareStart, a local food-based organization helping those who experience food poverty, Washington Environmental Council, Victim Support Services of Snohomish County, and continued support of frontline workers through organizations KIND Snacks and the Frontline Impact Project.

Paunchy Elephant products can be found in grocery departments all over the state, including where it all began at the Olympia Food Co-Op, inside the refrigerator case of the Made in Washington stores at the Pike Place Market and Lynnwood locations, and on the Eastside at the Kirkland QFC. Need a Paunchy fix faster? Check out their website to place a delivery order right to your door or spot Paunchy at a Farmer’s Market in your neighborhood.

Then as Paunchy says, “Relax. Indulge. And know you are consuming sustainably.” That certainly feels good!

While some of the products, services, and/or accommodations in this post were provided without charge, all of the opinions within are those of the author and the Seattle Refined editorial board.