In January of 1945 John Edward Hicks, Sr. found himself unemployed with a family to support. The idea of peddling meat products appealed to him after seeing the success his friend Bob Dearing had in the same area. After contacting all of the wholesalers in Mississippi, he landed a deal with Delta Packing Company of Clarksdale, MS. The merchandise came weekly via Railway Express and was then transported to Natchez Cold Storage where Mr. Hicks rented a space for a small monthly fee. The original inventory consisted of bologna, salami, hams, bacon and sausage. He sold these products out of his Dodge coupe to grocery stores in Natchez and country stores in surrounding areas. This was the birth of J.E. Hicks Distributing Company, Inc.
Growth and change would redefine the company several times over the next seven decades. Mr. Hicks would eventually build his own facility to process and store his products and bought small trucks to transport them. He hired salesmen, including his brothers Carl and Harold, plant hands, butchers, drivers and staff for his growing business. He eventually raised his own cattle and hogs and in 1951, he added chickens to the mix, thus the name, “Hicks-Chiks” was born. (The second word is purposely misspelled as a marketing ploy, so there would be five letters in each word.)
The next nine years would see more change and the end of the company raising and processing their own meats. The downsizing of the workforce called for new ideas to keep the company afloat, including adding butter, cheese, eggs and other products to the company’s offerings. In 1966, after a stint in the US Navy, John
Edward (Johnny) Hicks, Jr. joined the family business. He introduced the idea of buying a larger truck and picking up the products sold from the packing plants to save on cost. Thus creating a larger service area and increasing the number of our customers. These changes helped sustain the company well into the 1980’s. Soon, many large supermarket customers began buying from their own warehouses, thus reducing their reliance on Hicks but making their customers potential clients of Hicks-Chiks.
Johnny succeeded his father as president in 1990 and under his leadership the company rebranded and branched into the food service business, selling both wholesale and retail. A major facility expansion in 1995 enabled the company to offer many other items, including canned vegetables, fruits and dry staple goods as well as boxed meats, fish, poultry and hundreds of other selections. This allowed them to continue to service smaller private grocery stores, schools, hospitals, nursing homes, restaurants, hotels and jails. The company continues these practices today and has also added a full line of paper and plastic products as well as chemicals and restaurant equipment to their inventory.
In 1992, following his service in the Marine Corps, John E. Hicks, III became the third generation in the family business, eventually becoming its third president in 2016. John focused on creating a full-service retail company and enlarging its wholesale customer base as well. In 2014 a new retail showroom was dedicated in Natchez. This proved to be fruitful for the company as many walk-in customers began to become regular monthly customers. From their Natchez location on North MLK (#1 Hicks Ridge Road), they deliver daily within a 100-mile radius of the facility.
J.E. Hicks Distributing Company, Inc. currently employs more than 20 people who fill positions such as inside/outside sales, management, bookkeeping, and the daily operations, purchasing, inventory control, shipping and receiving.
Today, more than ever, J.E. Hicks is committed to meeting the needs of our customers and we welcome the addition of any new accounts. Our team is dedicated to customer satisfaction and being part of the communities in which we live and work. We believe in treating people like family, not like numbers. We look forward to serving you and we hope that we have helped you see how we are “Way More Than Just Chicken.”