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Mr. Positive: Carl Pringle Jr. says food is a conversation starter


Carl Pringle Jr. was born and raised in Washington, D.C. A tough childhood in rough neighborhoods left an impression on his soul. He knew life could be better somewhere, anywhere else. So in 1993, he moved his family to Fayetteville to give his children the chance he never had.
“I wanted to give my sons a better life than what I had up there. I have family who lives here. After my grandmother passed, they said, ‘Why don’t you move the boys here, find them a job and see something different than what you saw growing up?’”
Pringle moved to Fayetteville and got a job at Goodyear. Years later, he retired from the tire factory and went on disability, and today he enjoys helping raise his grandchildren. He cherishes his role as “Pop Pop” and wears it well. But for many of his friends and neighbors in Fayetteville, he has earned the moniker “Uncle Carl,” and he loves that too.
During the day, Pringle volunteers at the local elementary school as a “school angel,” lending a helping hand to teachers and giving them an extra set of eyes.
It also gives him a chance to spread his message of positivity to the students. After the last bell rings, Uncle Carl helps teachers with the car rider pick-up line. You might have seen him wave and wish you and your child well. He’s the one with a deep, thundering voice and tightly trimmed white beard.
Positive change
Back when Pringle lived in Washington, he was a part of a nonprofit group called PBMC, or Positive Black Men Coalition.
“Their thing was to bring people together by hosting parties for business. I loved the concept of positivity but didn’t want to limit myself to just parties. I just wanted to push positive,” says Pringle.
He brought that vision to Fayetteville with the creation of “Party in the Park.” Pringle put his grill skills to good use by feeding his neighbors. He viewed it as a chance to connect the community and bring positive change. He says food always brings people together and gets conversations started.
Smoke from his grill is a deep call to the soul to come home. The food brings everyone together.
“I started with one event and really enjoyed it. It started out slow, and I was trying to get my name out there. I hired a DJ and set up games for adults and children like kickball and brought a football for the kids to throw. I was looking for something to bring the kids together.”
Pringle said he began to partner with motorcycle clubs looking to bring the community together.
“Suddenly, I had 300 people at my next event,” says Pringle.
‘Everything Sauce’ is born
Pringle was making a grilling sauce for his cookouts, but he never imagined that would lead him to start his own business.
“In D.C., we had a sauce called ‘Mumbo Sauce.’ I was looking through my cabinets and trying to make Mumbo Sauce and didn’t have all the ingredients. So, I mixed a little bit of this, and a little bit of that. I took it to the park and people liked it. It stuck.”
Mumbo, which is sometimes called “Mambo Sauce,” is tangy and savory. A popular sauce in the Black communities of Washington, the reddish-orange condiment is like barbecue sauce and leaves a thick, glaze-like texture on anything you put it on. It’s sweet and sour with a little kick that gives food some zing.
Pringle calls his sauce Mumbo, which is sometimes called “The Everything Sauce,” but it’s also called “Flip Flop Sauce.”
Why Flip Flop?
As his cookout guests raved about his sauce, many asked, “Mr. Carl, what are you gonna call it?” Pringle looked down at his feet to think, saw the flip-flops he was wearing, and thought, ‘It’s so good, you could put it on a flip-flop and eat it.”
“That was the initial thought behind the name ‘Flip Flop Sauce,’” says Pringle.
As the sauce gained a following, Pringle streamlined his initial thought to, “It’s sweet on the front, with a kick of heat on the back. Then, they flip and they flop.”
He says the sauce was created to put smiles on people’s faces. It worked. And many encouraged him to market it.
Friends connected Pringle with Bob Fletcher, known for his popular Bob’s Smokin’ Southern BBQ Sauce. Fletcher took Pringle to lunch to discuss his business prospects.
“I want to help you start your sauce. I’ll walk you through it. I like what you’re doing in the community,” Pringle says Fletcher told him.
“I call him my sauce mentor,” Pringle says.
Today, Flip Flop Sauce is sold at Food Lion stores and Kinlaw’s Supermarket, among other stores.
Community comes calling
When Pringle was injured at work, he was forced to retire. The unexpected life twist sent him into a mental spiral; he battled depression and feelings of inadequacy because he couldn’t provide for his family. Pringle felt less than a man.
“I lost my drive,” he says.
The man of boundless positivity was himself struggling to find purpose. Then, some of the people whose lives he had touched reached out to him. The community came calling.
“Because I started those events, people started calling me,” Pringle says.
Pringle at first refused because he could not give back financially.
“No, Uncle Carl. We want to know if you’d come out and help grill?” he was told.
They didn’t want money; they wanted Uncle Carl. They wanted him to grill, and that he could do. Suddenly, Pringle found his direction.
“The grill gave me a purpose,” says Pringle. “I realized if I can’t do anything else, I can feed you.”
Along with good barbecue, he serves encouragement too.
“If I feed you, I can talk to you. I tell everyone, ‘You woke up today; everything else is extra.’”
Pringle says people often complain about what they “don’t see” in their community.
“You may not see much positive in the community. You may not see someone doing something positive in your community. If you don’t see it, be it!” says Pringle.
“By feeding the community, I made connections. I can go anywhere in this city and see I’ve made a connection with somebody. These connections carry over to my sons and to my grandkids. Building these relationships overflows to others.”
Pringle’s core message? Go be the change you want to see in your community.