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Unique Company: Chugwater Chili continues longstanding traditions

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Chugwater Chili, a unique company in Chugwater, was started in 1986.

Longtime Chugwater resident, Karen Guidice, says the town’s economic group was talking about the need for more employment opportunities – possibly bringing in a new business and new jobs – and decided to visit with the state for ideas.

“The gentleman at the state office at the time knew Dave Cameron who created a wonderful chili recipe. He had been competing and winning numerous championships. Ironically, he called it Chugwater Chili,” Karen says. “Five ranch families got together with Cameron and bought the recipe, which is how the company got started.”

She adds, “The company started with just one product, and after a few years they created a dip, dressing mix, red pepper jelly and steak rub. The company continues to grow, recently adding a green chili seasoning and a hot chili seasoning.” 

Products and trade shows

Karen explains she purchased the company about 10 years ago. 

“I absolutely fell in love with the product,” she states. “After doing trade shows and continually hearing ‘Wow’ and ‘This is the best chili I ever tasted,’ it was an easy decision. I had a business partner for the majority of the last 10 years and recently bought him out.”

The business continues to grow, with wider distribution. Sales are made online through wholesale customers, trade shows and the company’s retail store.

Chugwataer Chili currently has two full-time office employees and several part-time employees. Labor is also hired for trade shows.

In 2022, the company attended the National Finals Rodeo Cowboy Country Christmas Show at the Convention Center in Las Vegas.  

“At one time we did 16 shows a year, but after COVID-19, we now only do a few shows.  Customers sample our products at the trade shows, and once they try them, they want more. The beauty of the seasoning is once people taste it, they are hooked, and we have lifelong customers,” Karen mentions.

Karen also boasts all of their seasonings are five-star rated and award-winning. They plan to add three new products in the coming year.  

“We just received a first place Scovie Award for our green chili,” she says.

Business and location

Today, Karen and her husband own the company with an investor. 

“My husband helps when I need him, but basically it is just myself and my marketing manager running the company. I am grateful to have really good help,” she says.

Chugwater Chili has their corporate headquarters on First Street in Chugwater. 

“The facility is small, and we have outgrown it. Right now, we have a container that has all of our boxes and everything in it, and it is filled to the top,” Karen explains. “We do all of our packaging, marketing, sales and shipping out of our office.” 

Karen notes Chugwater had the first State Land and Investment Board approved charter school in the state – Prairie View Community School.  

“This is very exciting for Chugwater,” Karen says. “We currently have great businesses in town, the oldest working soda fountain in the state – Chugwater Soda Fountain – Tri-County Mercantile recently opened and the Stampede Eatery is a fun place to go. We are also very glad to have a gas station again. It’s fun to see these successful businesses really taking off.”

“The Chugwater Soda Fountain and the Stampede Eatery make our chili, so when people come to town or stop on their way through they want a bowl of chili – either because they’ve heard about it or have seen our sign – we send them to the Soda Fountain or the Stampede Eatery so they can have some fresh, hot chili. The gas station, the Mercantile and the Chugwater Soda Fountain also sell our seasonings. If we are not open, people can get it there,” she says.

“We have big plans for 2023, and a lot of work to do. The main thing we want to do is get our three new products introduced and continue to grow. It’s a great company, and when people hear about Chugwater, their usual comment is ‘Oh! Chugwater Chili!’” she adds.

Karen, calls the Chugwater area home – a place where she has raised her family and a place where she continues her passion for chili. 

“I worked for the town and then went on to work in economic development and was the executive director of the Southeast Wyoming Economic Development District for several years,” says Karen. “I bought into the chili company with the intention of having something light and easy to do when I retired. It is now a full-time job, however. Now, I love coming here to work every day.” 

To date, Chugwater Chili has been and continues to be a very important business for the little town of Chugwater.

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Heather Smith Thomas is a corresponding writer for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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