Posted November 12, 2004 by Nick Lindauer in Hot Sauce News

Hot Stuff For The Goodmans

Andrew Scherr
Special to the Jewish Times

NOVEMBER 12, 2004

The Goodman family loves spicy food. In addition to the 20-plus bottles of different hot sauces they have in their pantry (and use regularly), they have a monthly subscription to Chili-Pepper Magazine and keep a chili pepper garden in the back yard of their Pikesville home.

Gene Goodman, the patriarch of the family, is a self-proclaimed “chili-head.” Over the years, he managed to turn his wife, Ann, and their daughter, Judy, onto his spicy food craze.

But in the past 10 months, the Goodmans, who belong to Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, have turned their passion for spicy foods into a new family business venture.

Along with Laurie LaComb, a family friend with a similar appreciation for all foods spicy, the Goodmans have launched Little Willie’s Grenade Sauce, the newest local hot sauce. It is sold in local gourmet, wine and specialty shops.

“This is a passion of ours, and we love it. We are having a blast,” said Mr. Goodman, owner of the Abbey Fence Co. in Baltimore. “Everybody is kind of high on the product. We’re only two weeks in business, and we’re kickin’ butt!”

In its first two weeks on the market, Little Willie’s hot sauce sold 90 cases, approximately a third of the initial batch produced. In addition to individual buyers, popular local food stops such as Attman’s Delicatessen on Lombard Street, Gourmet Again in Pikesville, the Old Vine Wine Shop in Mount Washington, the Wine Source in Hampden and a few others recently added the sauce to their shelves. The sauce is made and co-packed by the Mama Vida Co. in Randallstown.

“Our sauce has texture and viscosity, and that’s what makes it different,” Mr. Goodman said. “We are the only hot sauce company that does not use a tomato base. It’s an assortment of ingredients that all come together in the right quantities.”

Before last January, Mr. Goodman made different batches of hot sauce strictly as a hobby. At his wife’s behest, he reluctantly entered his recipe for Little Willie’s Grenade Sauce in the “Zesty Best Amateur Food Contest.”

The Goodmans were pleasantly surprised to find out that the sauce placed second among 75 recipes entered. It missed first place by two points.

After their fine showing, Ms. LaComb, who lives in Canton and is not Jewish, and Ms. Goodman convinced Mr. Goodman to market the sauce to the public. Since then, the Goodmans and Ms. LaComb together have been experimenting with the original recipe and invented three more flavors; a mild version of the original sauce, one papaya-based salsa and a mango-based salsa.

With more flavors to work with, they also discovered the sauce could be used across a wider range of recipes.

“Of course, you can always do the chip version,” said Ms. LaComb, who frequently combines Little Willie’s sauces and salsas with her meals. “Or maybe mix the hot in a tablespoon with marinades, or when I’m making a pasta dish. Just throw it in to add a little spice. There are so many things you can do with it.”

Although they are excited about their new products, the Goodmans and Ms. LaComb are in no rush to grow as a company. All of them have day jobs and view their new venture as a hobby. On their days off, they get together and offer demonstrations at local festivals, small gourmet shops and restaurants.

“It’s something different. It’s something unique,” said Judy Goodman, who has a joint degree in marketing and communications from Tulane University. “Right now, it’s more important to have a personality behind it, a face behind the product.”

Said her father: “We’re going to research and develop everything we need to. We’re going to do it the right way and walk before we run.”

For information about the hot sauce, e-mail littlewilliehot@att.net .

Andrew Scherr is a local free-lance writer.

Nick Lindauer

The Original Hot Sauce Blog