Posted August 19, 2007 06:31 pm - Updated August 22, 2007 10:53 am

New look planned for Castleberry’s in stores

It's been more than a month since Castleberry's Food Co. products have been off store shelves because of a botulism scare linked to its 450-employee Augusta plant.

When the plant reopens – which won't be until October at the earliest, according to the company's Canadian owner – the cans it churns out will not have the stodgy labels you have been accustomed to seeing .

"We have very quickly put together some conceptual elements that deal with labeling," Castleberry's Senior Vice President Dave Melbourne said in a recent conference call with analysts. "It's an opportunity to signify the change and the future."

My guess is that you're not going to see any drastic changes to the 80-year-old brand name. This won't be ValuJet's renaming itself AirTran, but more like Kentucky Fried Chicken becoming KFC.

It will most likely be a "return to our roots"-type campaign, similar to Coca-Cola Co.'s "Coke Classic" response to the "New Coke" fiasco of the 1980s. I can see it now, "Castleberry's Classics – Now botulism free!"

Seriously, though, if you shop at a store that is still stocking Castleberry's canned-meat products, find a new grocer.

SPEAKING OF CANNED FOODS: I was at my neighborhood grocery store the other day, looking at the bare spaces on the shelves in the canned meat aisle where Castleberry's stews, hot dog chili and barbecue usually reside.

I realized I rarely spend time in this section of the store, so I decided to take a closer look at the products that reside there. I recommend you do the same, because you, too, might spot what is arguably the oddest food product ever retailed to the (mainstream) American consumer.

It's not Spam. It's not vienna sausage. It's not pickled pig's feet. It's not even potted (what do they mean, potted?) meat.

It's pork brains.

That's right, pork brains. To be specific, a 5-ounce can of Rose brand Pork Brains With Milk Gravy, canned by Sanford, N.C.-based Foell Packing Co. Nine grams of carbs, 14 grams of protein and 3,190 milligrams of cholesterol, which, by the way, is 1,060 percent of your recommended daily allowance. That means no cheesecake for dessert.

As I held the can in my hand, I was stupefied (I can't get my store to sell 2 liters of Tab, yet it stocks cans of hog cerebellum?). I was disgusted. I was … dare I say, intrigued.

f course, I had to buy a can. I'll let you know how it tastes when I work up the nerve to try it.*

(* Attention pork brains aficionados: Send in your favorite pork brain recipes to The Augusta Chronicle, c/o Pork Brain Recipe Contest, P.O. Box 1928, Augusta, GA 30903. If we print yours, we'll send you an Augusta Chronicle-embroidered golf shirt.)

TUCKER'D OUT?: With all the flurry of community bank activity – the formation of Savannah River Banking Co., the entry of Citizen's First into the Augusta market, the expansion of Georgia Bank & Trust Co. into Aiken, the branching of Security Federal to Columbia County and the establishment of Synovus-backed Augusta First – you might have forgotten about Tucker Mathis.

Last year, the North Augusta businessman announced his intent to start a new community bank called Heritage Bank & Trust. However, the investors that the owner of TM Capital rounded up (mostly ex-People's Community Bank backers) have since split off to do their own thing, VistaBank.

"We're still putting together Heritage Bank & Trust," Mr. Mathis said. "We've just hit a couple of speed bumps."

Mr. Mathis said he expects to make a formal announcement on the bank in four to five weeks.

25 OR 6 TO 4: Fifth Third Bancorp, which is kind of a funny name for a bank, said it should close its acquisition of R-G Crown, which also is kind of a funny name for a bank, in November.

This will give Cincinnati-based Fifth Third three R-G Crown branches in Augusta, which it has said it will operate rather than spin off to another bank. Fifth Third is serious about expanding its Southeastern presence and acquired Charlotte, N.C.-based First Charter last week.

TEEING OFF: It's baaaaack. The Augusta Commission on Tuesday is expected to vote again on the $20 million trade, exhibition and event center proposal on Reynolds Street.
Petty politics has kept the project, known as the TEE center, from coming to fruition in the past (for details, see the July 16 Scuttlebiz), but project backers believe they have an offer that project opponents can't refuse.

City officials have worked out a plan where revenue from increased hotel/motel taxes would be funneled into a community redevelopment fund that would almost exclusively benefit areas within the districts of the naysaying commissioners.

Essentially, a commissioner who votes against the TEE center votes against putting money into his or her constituents' backyard.

Does this mean TEE center proponents now have the votes needed to finally move forward with a project that the county's taxpayers approved two years ago? My Magic 8-Ball says, "Yes."

Will the approval be unanimous? I doubt it.

Never underestimate the power of petty politics.