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Heard on the street: The Brunswick stew mystery

Amy David November 2, 2011 96

A popular brand of Brunswick stew that was born in Mechanicsville might have reached its shelf life — at least temporarily.

Mrs. Fearnow’s Brunswick Stew — yes, the one in the yellow can — was taken off some local supermarket shelves as of about three months ago, according to a reader who emailed in and wondered whether the brand had been discontinued.

BizSense did some digging to find out what’s happening with ol’ Mrs. Fearnow and the stew that was first cooked up locally 70 years ago.

A manager at the Atlee Road Kroger in Mechanicsville said that production of the stew stopped and that the store has been out for a couple of months.

Carl York, public affairs manager for Kroger, said that the supplier temporarily stopped producing the brand but recently ramped back up and will continue to distribute the product to stores.

“It wasn’t discontinued,” York said.  “For whatever reason, the supplier shut down production of it temporarily. Shoppers should still be able to buy it.”

York didn’t have details on why the supplier stopped producing the stew.

The canned stew was originally made by Lillie Pearl Fearnow, who cooked it up on Hope Farm in Hanover County in the 1940s.

Fearnow’s children started Fearnow Bros. Inc. at a plant in Mechanicsville that canned the stew. It was later run by the grandchildren until it was bought by Castleberry in 1999.

Bumble Bee Foods acquired Castleberry/Snow Brands in December 2005, and Castleberry was shut down by the FDA in 2008.

Bost Distributing Company bought the Mrs. Fearnow’s Brunswick Stew brand from Bumble Bee in 2007, according to its website.

The Sanford, N.C.-based company produces and markets various food products, such as Patterson’s Hot Dog Chili and Harold’s Crab Soup.

Calls to Bost Distributing were not returned Tuesday. Stew-lovers can still purchase Mrs. Fearnow’s through the company’s website.

David Stanley, a manager at the Food Lion on Courthouse Road, said the  store was out of the stew for a while but is once again receiving it.

“As of right now, I haven’t heard anything about them discontinuing it,” he said.

Both the Martin’s in Sycamore Square in Midlothian and the Kroger on Mechanicsville Turnpike are still carrying the product.

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  1. Victoria Gutshall September 4, 2012 at 12:45 pm - Reply

    I grew up in Richmond and Mrs. Fearnows was a staple in our house. Now live in Wyoming and couldn’t get it here, so started making it on my own. (got a pot cooking now!) However, my version just isn’t as good as Mrs. Fearnows. Been trying to buy it online but so far no luck.

  2. cindy hoopson September 4, 2012 at 1:29 pm - Reply

    my sister and i been trying to find the propuct by castleberrrys named georgia hash can you please tell me where to find it

  3. Mary Robbins September 9, 2012 at 4:50 pm - Reply

    Been looking for Mrs. Fearnow’s Brunswick Stew.. My Aunt even called a few min. ago & I told her I would go on line to see if I could find where to buy it.. I’m in Rocky Mount, NC.. Use to buy it at Food Lion, Piggly Wiggly and Smith’s Red & White.. Can’t find it anywhere… Help !!! I’m craving it… It’s the best.. Please send it to Rocky Mount soon !!! Please let me know where I can find it… and if the can will be the same.. Thanks, Mary

  4. Ryan P September 11, 2012 at 12:54 pm - Reply

    I just bought 10 cans at the WalMart here in Ashland Va for $2.98 a can. I’m not sure why everyone is griping about the taste because I just finished off a can and it was wonderful!

  5. Beth B September 12, 2012 at 9:58 am - Reply

    Brookville Supermarket in the Cleveland Park neighborhood of Washington, DC has gotten it again, although my mother who lives in Matthews, NC can’t find it. Haven’t tasted it but the can is exactly the same.

  6. Jay September 12, 2012 at 8:36 pm - Reply

    Great news guys:

    Just stopped by the Willow Lawn Kroger and saw an end-cap display of the famed and elusive Brunswick Stew.

    There were 17 cans left when I was at the store at about 6pm on September the 12th.

    Photographic evidence:



  7. Penny Brewster September 14, 2012 at 10:00 pm - Reply

    PLEEEEASE do not tell me I can no longer buy this stew! It is a great fast meal for my family of eight. I have been buying this stew since 1978 in all of the grocery stores in my town and now I can’t find it anywhere!!!!!!!!! It is the best can stew that you can buy in a store. I recommend protesting or grow your own veggies and spend two to three days picking, shelling, shucking, blanching, seeding and canning your own ! It’s a whole lot of hard work!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So I am PROTESTING$$$$$$ BRING IT BACK< IT"S

  8. Wilford Hamm, WA4TCS September 19, 2012 at 1:36 pm - Reply

    Have been buying & eating this stew since it was first made.
    We have not found it in any of the Kroger, or Martins stores in Henrico or Richmond Virginia for the past6 months??

  9. Trey Fary September 21, 2012 at 11:16 am - Reply

    I emailed the Bost company as to where the stew had disappeared to and I was sent the following response :
    ” We have recently started producing our Fearnows. We are shipping some out, but it will take awhile to get back into the market and on the shelves. I have been told that we should have it listed back on our online store within the next few weeks. I do not know which ones received product, but Walmart has been shipped some Fearnows.

    Thank You
    Robyn Powers
    Bost Distributing Co., Inc.
    Phone 919-775-5931
    Fax 919-774-1627″

    I was also assured the recipe will be the same, hopefully the ingredients will still be a fresh ! Out of frustration I started trying to get the recipe figured out and I have a VERY good version (so my whole Fearnow-loving family says)! I will try to figure out where I ant to post it and replay back.

  10. joyce Collins October 1, 2012 at 8:09 pm - Reply

    This has been a favorite of mine for years. We knew Fred Fearnow in the Navy. I live in Texas and went to Virginia in August hoping to .find this, but to no avail. F red’s wife didn’t like it. I believe she must have been joking

  11. judi bailey October 9, 2012 at 1:26 pm - Reply

    Yippe , glad to report Mrs Fearnow’s Brunswick Stew in back on the market. It can be ordered on line and has been released to Walmart stores. Just ordered my first case…can’t wait !!

  12. Pat foxwell October 11, 2012 at 7:24 pm - Reply

    I really love this stew & Happy to say that I have been buying it again from the wal-mart here in Elizabeth city store, in Nc. it went off the Shelves for awhile, I called the Company & they said they had stopped making it, but call back later. I just waited & they are selling it again.There was some kind of mystery why they stopped. but it’s Back now in E.City Nc, And it taste just as good as before!!! and it cost 2;98 a can. stock up on it I suggest!!!

  13. George Pacacha October 15, 2012 at 10:19 am - Reply

    I was just in Richmond on Friday oct 12th I found this product at Kroger on Laburnum Ave in the East end all the west end stores were out enjoy.

  14. Cora Davenport October 30, 2012 at 3:11 pm - Reply

    My two daughters were raised on that Brunswick Stew and there is no way I can duplicate it in my kitchen. I have looked for it for months so I am glad to hear it will be available shortly. My oldest daughter married and moved away from NC and I mailed her some cans of B Stew for her birthday one year. That was the best present I could think of. She thought so, too.

  15. Joe Brightly November 17, 2012 at 12:54 pm - Reply

    I still cannot find this anywhere. Are there any current sightings? Someone needs to get 60 Minutes to investigate this Southern conspiracy.

    • Jay November 19, 2012 at 8:16 am - Reply

      Joe Brightly, I’ve seen them in the Willow Lawn Kroger with a good degree of regularity over the last few months.

      Typically they’ve been on one of the endcaps at the back of the store near the dairy (closer to where the eggs and cheese are…not the milk).

  16. Mellie Randall November 26, 2012 at 9:18 pm - Reply

    Glad to hear that it is still available. I have been searching but I have not found it in either the Kroger’s on Huguenot or on Midlothian, or at the Martin’s on Midlothian. I’ll look at Willow Lawn. I think Mrs. Fearnow’s is the perfect food.

  17. Sarah Wood November 28, 2012 at 6:59 pm - Reply

    Just bought some in Walmart – so happy to find it!

  18. Ashley Taylor November 30, 2012 at 6:40 pm - Reply

    FYI: I called Bost Distributing today (11/30/12), which is the company who makes this Brunswick Stew and I asked if they were still making it and was told that they were. I then asked when it would be in stock again and she told me that they were scheduled to start making it again next week and that it stock should be getting back to normal within the next few weeks and that as early as next week, it should be back in stock online.

  19. Garrett December 11, 2012 at 9:14 am - Reply

    I’ve been hunting down a can of Fearnow’s for months now. After Bost told me it would only be in select Walmarts, Safeways, and IGA stores west of RVA, I was quite disappointed. Imagine my surprise when I ran in to a pile of it at my local Kroger (walmsley and Hull)! Just last week…. I bought a case! The cashier thought I was silly, then noticed the lady behind me had two cans as well. They put it in the pasta aisle for some reason?! IMHO, there’s no better brunswick stew in a can. SOOO good… 3.74 a can, and still completely worth it.

  20. Susan Bobbitt December 29, 2012 at 5:40 pm - Reply

    Came home to N.C. from Houston, Tx. for Christmas with a list of items to collect to take back to Texas. Mrs. Fearnow’s was at the top of the list. Went to both grocery stores here in Sparta, N.C. where I purchased it 2 years ago and there was not even a slot on the shelf for it much to my disappointment as I was going to purchase all they had. Most Texans don’t know what Brunswick Stew is.

  21. Harry Baken January 1, 2013 at 2:42 pm - Reply

    We love the stew as well. Have been looking for it here in Richmond area for months. Decided to check the distributors website and found something interesting. when you go to http://www.Bostdistributing.com a long list of emergency preparedness items come up. this is interesting.

  22. Amanda January 4, 2013 at 5:06 pm - Reply

    I was already addicted to it, and as soon as I get pregnant it was taken off the shelf. I am 33 weeks pregnant, and have craved it my whole pregnancy. I need my stew, really bad.

  23. Les February 5, 2013 at 2:20 pm - Reply

    For those interested, Mrs. Fearnow’s Stew is now available. Wal-Mart seems to be the only retailer who has it as this time. I just purchased 6 cans at the Ashland Wal-Mart store from an end-aisle display.

  24. John Hopkins February 11, 2013 at 10:30 am - Reply

    There has never been a better soup or stew anywhere! Had checked every store I went in for quite some time and found Mrs. Fearnow’s in only a few Walmart Stores (always bought all they had, which might have been 10 cans) up until Feb. 8! Stopped in the Ashland Walmart Store and found a center aisle display stacked high!! Bought 12 cans and left beaming!! Grew up on it and it was a weekly meal (especially Sunday night with grilled chesse) for years. Now life is good and back to normal!!!

  25. LaRaunce February 21, 2013 at 10:25 am - Reply

    Mrs. Fearnow’s stew is wonderful. I am not a big stew person, but I love this brand. Growing up in Richmond it was a staple. I have been a military spouse for over 25 years and wherever I have lived, whether in or out of the country, I’ve taken it with me. I am currently living in huntsville, AL and can’t find the stew. So when I go home to Richmond I have to bring it across state lines. LOL! Still looking for a way to purchase online.

  26. Valerie Fisher February 26, 2013 at 1:30 pm - Reply

    Walmart, Colonial Heights has a pallet display of them! 🙂

  27. Lawrence Barry March 3, 2013 at 9:12 am - Reply

    03/02/2013 have not been able to locate on Southside of James,please help. Quite a few of my friends and I are in withdrawal!HELP

    • Tammy D March 4, 2013 at 8:58 am - Reply

      Lawrence Barry, I found it Saturday 3/2 at the Walmart on Midlothian.

  28. Willy Gordon March 19, 2013 at 12:35 pm - Reply

    As a native Virginian, I have always loved Brunswick stew, first encountered Mrs. Fearnow’s in 1976 in college in Lexington, VA and eaten it ever since…….when available. It disappeared from the shelves in Northern Va some while ago. Just happened upon a pile in the aisle of the Walmart yesterday in Tappahannock and bought a case. At the time, I thought I was getting a little carried away but now glad to have a supply. We are already down two cans after lunch today.

  29. Rae Levy March 28, 2013 at 4:46 pm - Reply

    Have found it sporatically at Martin’s in Carytown and Midlothian (across from Chesterfield Towne Centre). My daughter loves it & we were not able to find it for a while…so when I did, I bought a whole case. Then it was gone again. Have just found it sitting at a ramdom place in the store…not with soups, etc. When I see it, I grab it!

  30. Kim Ireland May 18, 2013 at 8:18 pm - Reply

    Where can I find it in Jacksonville Florida? I grew up on this stuff in Ashland Virginia! It was close to my own back yard! Good stuff!!!!

  31. Joy Mathews October 3, 2013 at 8:36 pm - Reply

    Ordered me a case online! Can’t wait to eat it!

  32. Karen Lewicki February 27, 2014 at 3:53 pm - Reply

    Read all the comments regarding Mrs, Fearnow’s Brunswick stew. Two years ago I would have agreed with the positive remarks. And like so many of you, I have been eating this stew for 50 plus years, Had a can just now, first in a long time. And I am sad to say the last I will ever have. The recipe HAS changed, and in my and in my husbands opinion, not for the good. Too tomatoery. Not the original recipe. So sorry, We will miss it as we always had two or three cans on our shelf and our three boys also loved it, Good bye to another Richmond tradition.

  33. Susan Kendall October 13, 2014 at 1:40 pm - Reply

    I disagree with the 2/27/14 comment, because I have noticed no change in the recipe; it’s still so delicious! I have been eating it most of my life (about 50 yrs), since my native-Richmonder mother kept it stocked in our kitchen. I can buy it in northern Virginia at Walmart, and I am so thankful!

  34. Wanda Birch October 26, 2014 at 3:41 pm - Reply

    I love Mrs. Fearnow’s Brunswick stew! I also happen to be married to Mrs. Fearnow’s grandson and I have been having a fit trying to find it! My daughter was craving it while pregnant and found one can on the bottom shelf at a walmart in Morrisville, NC.

  35. Forrest Marshall January 3, 2015 at 2:22 pm - Reply

    Mrs Fearnows Brunswick stew has changed so much it does not look or taste like the orginal and I will never buy it again

  36. Elizabeth Tissot March 17, 2016 at 9:23 am - Reply

    I purchased a can of Mrs. Fearnow’s Brunswick Stew March 2016, ate half a can and had a terrific stomach ache immediately. I am afraid to eat the remainder. Wonder if that had something to do with taking it off the market. My can was best by 1 24 2018 so it should have been good. I will not get this brand again. I agree with Karen Lewicki and Forrest Marshall
    (see comments above).

    • Wanda Birch March 29, 2016 at 5:11 pm - Reply

      They have changed the recipe. Not as peppery as it use to be. My husband is Mrs. Fearnow’s grandson and has noticed the difference.

    • Peggy Harding March 31, 2016 at 8:52 am - Reply

      The same thing happened to me relatively recently, Elizabeth Tissot. I don’t remember the date on the can, but it was not expired. I agree that I will never buy another can. So sad.

  37. Tara Garmon February 15, 2017 at 9:04 pm - Reply

    To those saying the recipe has not changed, you are 100% WRONG. I used to be such a huge fan of this stuff I would buy it by the case. I ate it several times per week. The recipe has changed DRASTICALLY. The potatoes used to be the kind that would be a little mealy and fall apart just like people use in soup and home, and how they are those waxy kind that hold their shape better like you find in Chunky soups. The chicken is now practically non-existent, and the pieces are much, much smaller than they used to be. There is less overall flavor now. It’s NOT the same. I went from buying cases years ago to buying NONE since I tried it again recently. Never again. They should have just left it out of production. I wish I never found it again.

    • Matt Faris February 16, 2017 at 3:13 pm - Reply

      Tara, you realize that some of us still like the product. We would appreciate it if you would allow them to continue to make it and ship it to us.

      Now, let me send you a list of what I don’t like, and hopefully you can adjust your eating habits to comply.

      Thanks in advance.

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