“I’m not a cook, but I have an amazing sauce.” Reggie Smith, owner of STL Pure Heat gourmet sauce, said.
Smith admits he’s not much of a cook, but after growing up and eating at McDonald’s a lot due to his mother’s lack of culinary skill, he decided to learn how to cook.
While he says he’s no chef, he’s proved you don’t have to be. And now he’s excited to see his sauces available in area Schnucks stores.
Said Pam Hild, category manager for Schnuck Markets,Inc.: "I am always excited to feature local products in our stores because our Schnucks customers love to support local businesses just like we do.”
“My personal favorite is the Garlic Heat,” Hild said.
Smith said, “It’s an amazing feeling to know that you can go into a store you grew up going to with your mom, grandmother, and aunt to buy groceries, and now see your face on the shelf.”
“To see my face on that shelf it's almost like, “Mama, I made it,” he said.
Smith wasn’t asked by Schnucks and other stores to sell his products. Instead, he took the direct but daring route by going to them and pitching his product to store owners and managers.
“Man, it was pure hustling and grinding,” Smith said. “Nobody reached out to me, it was footwork. I walked through those doors, sold myself, sold my sauce, I let them taste it, and it was over with from there.”
Aside from Schnucks, the sauce is sold in a number of local stores in St. Louis and in his native of East. St. Louis.
The owner of Discover Thermopolis called Smith after seeing an article about him in Sauce Magazine, and it’s now sold in Thermopolis, Wyoming.
St. Louisans who’ve relocated to the Dallas-Fort Worth area helped spark Interest there as many connected Smith with requesting the sauce. It’s now sold in those areas. The sauces are also available on www.walmart.com.
The idea for his own line of sauces began in 2013 when he was owner and operator of the now-closed nightclub, Pure Ultra Lounge Bar and Grill.
Unfortunately, as most clubs that have come and gone in the city. Pure Ultra is another example of that. It closed due to unforeseen circumstances according to Smith; partly because of consistent gun violence and fighting in the area.
The establishment might be closed, but interest in his Sweet’n’Spicy sauce lingered. As interest in his sauce grew, Smith decided that even in the midst of the pandemic he would start selling it.
He began with 12 bottles, then 100, eventually growing to 1,000 bottles every two weeks. He did all of this from the comfort of home.
As demand for the sauce continued to grow, he realized that he couldn’t keep selling it from home and it was a safety hazard having everyone know his address.
“I saw that it was gonna go commercial so I had to do it the proper way and get FDA-certified, get my ingredients on there, get the nutrition facts on the bottle, get a decent label made for it,” Smith said.
“I said if I’m gonna do it on this level then I need to start soliciting some of these stores so that I can stop having people come to my house. I started soliciting gas stations and mini-marts near my house, and then I started going to the grocery stores.”
Smith insists that what makes his sauces different from others on the market is that they have a little something special to them.
“There’s a little soul with my sauce and it was made with a lot of love,” Smith said. “It wasn’t made originally for commercial use. It was made for personal use inside my bar and grill. It’s more of a personal touch to it.”
“I want everybody to give it a try,” Smith said. “Support a small business and help it to grow,” Smith said.
Smith’s sauces come in three flavors: sweet and spicy; sweet and mild; and garlic heat.
All are sold in 30 stores nationwide. They will be on local shelves in nearly 70 Schnucks stores across the metropolitan area by early February, retailing for $6.99 each.
Pure Heat’s garlic heat sauce placed second in the Scovie Awards, a competition recognizing the top fiery foods around the world. Thirty-two states and five countries submitted entries and were judged by a panel of culinary experts.
If you have a local product and want to learn more about how to partner with Schnucks please visit https://rangeme.com/schnucksdiversity for more information.
Learn more about the Scovie Awards here: scovieawards.com.
For more information about STL Pure Heat: https://stlpureheat.com/.