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Spice of life

The message on this shaker bottle suggests it contains “the flavor of a lifetime.”

Apparently, that message was accurate, because the Pleasoning brand of gourmet seasoning is still thriving, 67 years after the company was established in La Crosse.

Frank J. Italiano’s teaching career kept him busy during the week, but on weekends he experimented with blends of herbs and spices that were designed to be tasty while containing less sodium than table salt.

He gave some of his spicy creations to his fellow teachers, “and they kept coming back for more,” according to the Pleasoning website. A business was born in 1952.

Italiano and his wife, Lenore, grew the Pleasoning business for many decades with help from family members.

He died in 2006, but worked the business until he was 83. Lenore retired from her Pleasoning responsibilities in 2007.

Their daughter, Kathy, and her husband, Paul Boarman, own and operate the business, now called Pleasoning Gourmet Seasonings, at 2109 Ward Ave. They and their son, Dominic, are the company’s only employees.

The shaker was donated to the La Crosse County Historical Society by Frank and Lenore’s son, George, who also worked in the family business as a youngster.

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Its label, which bears a copyright date of 1956, claims Pleasoning is “famous for improving food flavors.” It should be used “in place of all seasoning,” the label adds, along with a final bit of advice — “Note: This is a true blend. Add salt if you like your food saltier.”

George says this shaker sold for 39 cents back in 1956. He remembers mixing some product and filling shakers along with other family members back when the business was just getting started.

“Family always helped,” he said. He also credits Kathy and Paul for greatly growing the business through Internet marketing.

Frank combined his musical expertise and chemistry background to create taste sensations, according to the company’s website, although it adds that “his Italian mother’s use of herbs and spices helped.”

Pleasoning products, which have grown to include 36 different blends, are now shipped all over the country. Pleasoning also follows America’s troops to military installations all over the world. The blends of herbs and spices, still low in sodium, are sold to the military, which in turn ships them to “where the troops are,” Paul says.

Some customers have been buying Pleasoning for 50 years or so, Paul reports.

The original Pleasoning blend still follows “exactly the same recipe” originally created by Frank, according to Paul. That recipe, by the way, is very much a secret.

Both this shaker and a Pleasoning shipping box can be viewed electronically, along with many other items from the region’s past, by visiting the historical society’s online collections.

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