All great brands start with a great story and Ray’s is no exception. Ray’s brother, Port DeFrates, started Ray’s Brand Chilli. Port traveled from his hometown of Springfield, IL to Dallas, TX to seek his fame and fortune. While there he spent some time eating a new dish, called chili, in the diner that was located in the lobby of the Adolphis Hotel. He loved the chili so much that he somehow got the recipe and took it back home and started making it for family and friends in 1914.
When Port traveled back to Dallas, brother Ray was left with Port’s three boys and a recipe for the most delicious chili. Ray continued making the chili for family and friends. He then started putting it in cellophane bags and jars to sell in the grocery store where Ray worked his day job. That day job changed to manufacturing Ray’s Brand Chilli in cans in 1922.
Ray’s Brand Chilli was a family owned business that grew steadily until Ray DeFrates’ passing in 1962. While the business remained strong, it was not growing, so the family sold Ray’s to another family in 1986 and in 1997. A new family purchased the business.
In 1996, you could find Ray’s in most grocery stores in Illinois between I-80 and I-64. Ray's Brand Chilli could also be found in select grocery stores in Southern Illinois, Quad Cities of Iowa and in a few stores in Missouri and Indiana. Today, Ray’s can be found in select grocery stores throughout a 21-state region.
Ray’s enjoys a strong mail-order business that ships their products to every state, including Alaska and Hawaii. The mail-order business got even more popular thanks to a glowing New York Times article by Food Editor Mimi Sheraton. After holding a taste test of all canned chili products, Sheraton’s subsequent article raved, “Ray's Brand Chilli is the hands-down winner.”