January 2018
Homeplace & Community

Kim’s Kickin’ Creation

Locally produced pimento cheese dip is a surprise hit in Selma.

 

Kim Peake holds a container of her pimento cheese spread that has been attracting customers throughout the state.

Regional food favorites can stir passions from Maine to California, but the South generally is considered the pimento cheese capital of America.

It’s easy to understand because the cheesy dish seems to have captured the South almost as fast as Sherman took Dixie.

Recipes usually are closely guarded familial secrets, handed down from generation to generation along with bragging rights claimed by those who take top honors in culinary competitions.

Kim Peake doesn’t worry about such things because she prefers to make her own pimento cheese from scratch. Personal accolades aren’t that important to her.

Praise comes from customers who file into Mark’s Mart to buy Kim’s Kickin’ Pimento Cheese. Once they taste her creation, it’s almost a given they’ll return for more before long.

Her dip wasn’t an overnight sensation by any means because she began making it about 10 years ago as a homemade favorite for friends.

She never thought about turning her creation into a marketable product until Phillip, her son, took matters into his own hands and used the store, Mark’s Mart, where he works as a testing ground. It soon became an instant hit.

Kim has a degree in Human Resource Management from Troy University and currently has a full-time job at the Dallas County Courthouse where she helps to direct the Alabama Children’s Policy Council program.

In addition to that job, she also helps out at the Blue Jean Church in Selma when she’s not filling plastic containers with cheese dip.

She began making her dip at the church, but needed more room and that’s how she began using Mark’s Mart, a popular business that’s been around for decades.

Now she has the space she needs as her dip takes its place along with other popular items in coolers.

She made and sold so many containers at first that it got to the point she needed a helping hand. It came by way of a $300 mixer that eased elbow stress and enabled her to produce even more.

Those who became quick customers were hooked from the first bite. It’s a reaction from others with similar experiences.

"My parents ate it all the time when I was young, but I wasn’t much of a fan," said Kim, who eventually came around and started making little cheese balls and dips.

When she began going to community functions with other guests carrying their favorite food items, Kim chose her cheese dip. She pronounces it "dee-up" with her Southern inflection.

Appearance is important when it comes to food and labels. So, her hinged plastic containers have a bright-red pepper with a green topper to draw attention.

She uses sharp cheddar cheese as well as cream cheese along with paprika, onions, garlic powder and, of course, lots of pimentos.

Customers have found ways to use the cheese dip in just about everything including mashed potatoes, hamburgers and omelets. As busy as she is already, Kim always seems to find ways to market her product.

A chili pepper is on the label designed by Sarah Wagoner promoting Kim’s Kickin’ Pimento Cheese.

 

 

 

 

Kim credits Sarah Wagoner, her best friend, with designing the labels. The last line is "This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.."

It represents not only the year of her birth but is also a reminder of the year Selma was in the middle of a negative, national spotlight focused on what would become something positive – the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Inventors and investors usually need support – financial or moral – and Kim found it in the person of Rodney King, who owns and operates Mark’s Mart.

His store is unique because of its layout as well as the food items it offers customers.

Wine and cheese just seem to go together and Kim’s pimento cheese dish has fit in nicely since its arrival a year ago.

Name it and King probably has it on his shelves where homemade creations such as Kim’s Pimento Cheese dip find their way into the cooler section of the store.

"Home of the Original Chicken Swirl" is displayed on his company’s business cards and it’s for good reason because customers come from near and far to buy it and take it back home, often along the Gulf Coast.

Built in 1938 during the waning period of the Great Depression, the store has had loyal customers throughout the decades. The business may have changed owners and appearances from time to time, but the bottom line has always been the same.

"We believe in local products and do all we can to give them a chance to succeed," King said. "That’s why we added Kim’s pimento cheese dip."

It was a business boost made to order for Kim because she had found a permanent place to display her creation. Hers was the first of its kind added to Mark’s Mart’s extensive lineup of homemade items including tuna and egg salad dishes.

The best part of the arrangement is a policy that gives food creators a place to display them if they meet King’s approval.

 

Phillip Peake works at Mark’s Market in Selma where his mother’s pimento cheese dip is popular with customers.

What it also affords potential businesses is a store front for those looking for ways to cut corners and overhead costs during important formative periods.

Phillip suggested to King that he try some of his mother’s cheese dip. It wasn’t long before a culinary marriage in heaven was about to be made.

"Well, bring me some," King told Phillip. "I knew right off it would be a winner at our store. That’s how it all started and we’re happy to have it here."

The result meant Kim’s creation had found its own niche along with other Mark’s Mart products neatly displayed in the cooler section of the business.

The store is located at 1022 County Road 44. Visitors may view it is as being out in the boondocks, but it’s only about 3 miles from downtown Selma.

"Some of our customers come in specifically asking for Kim’s cheese dip," said employee Mike Sexton. "What she has is special and we’re happy to have her cheese dip here."

Kim prefers Melba toast to scoop out her pimento cheese, but some fans use other methods. Any way you choose, her creation goes fast and she’s off to make another batch.

Her cheese dip sells for $7.49 in a 12-ounce container. It may seem like an odd figure, but it doesn’t really matter because the price is right for loyal customers.

 

Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.