You could say that Big Red’s is on a bit of a hot streak. In the three years since walloping “Smokin'” Ed Curry and the rest of the competition at the California Hot Sauce Expo in 2018, the hot sauce company and its heat-makers — husband-and-wife team Paul and Tasia Ford — have weathered the pandemic, opened a new gift shop, and won another award. (This time, unrelated to flavor.)
Big Red’s Hot Sauce opened its gift shop at 10439 North Cave Creek Road in Sunnyslope in April. The shop is at the end of a row of warehouses and adjacent to Big Red’s warehouse. It offers 11 varieties of sauces (nine hot sauces and two smother sauces) along with Big Red’s Hot Sauce merchandise and a few shelf-stable items from other local businesses like RA Seasoning, Relish This brand relish by Chandler-based Sunshine Specialty Foods, and Arizona local honey.
Big Red’s has become a destination for hot sauce aficionados. Noted hot sauce collector Vic Clinco, who has the largest hot sauce collection in the world, now has signed bottles from Big Red’s on his wall.
For the Fords, success didn’t come easy. The couple worked other jobs prior to opening their hot sauce business in 2011. Tasia was an advisor at the University of Phoenix. Paul drilled for natural resources and spent time in Afghanistan, drilling water for the troops stationed there. Upon his return from overseas, Paul decided to start a business. Inspired by his neighbor, he chose to make hot sauce. Paul and Tasia brought samples to work and people couldn’t get enough. Thus, Big Red’s Hot Sauce was born.
By 2018, both had quit their jobs to focus fully on the business. “When the pandemic happened, we had to make it work,” says Tasia. The two began collaborating with other businesses.
For example, salsa producer Hiram Carrasco had started a digital marketing firm, Hiram Carrasco Consulting. “We decided to hire him and support another small business, rather than going with a larger company,” says Tasia.
Also, when the Arizona Elderberry Shoppe received an overwhelming number of orders, Big Red’s was able to lend a hand with production and order fulfillment. As such, an order that would have taken 48 hours was completed in eight.
At the farmers’ markets, Paul and Tasia changed strategy by switching from tasting to a verbal flavor tour. For each sauce, Paul would describe the flavor and heat and give people examples of what foods it would work best with.
Tasia credits Paul for helping the business make it through the pandemic by finding opportunities to grow. “He’s a problem-solver with a heart for service. He genuinely asks, ‘How can I be of service?’ That’s how he was able to generate a revenue stream for us while helping others.”
Paul’s resilience won him the Forbes Next 1000, a nomination-based award for resilient entrepreneurs, in September. “I still can’t believe it,” he says.
“You know that when you get there, it wasn’t given to you,” says Tasia. “You had to work for it. We love what we do. It’s the life we chose. It feels good to know we will be celebrating 10 years of doing this, and it felt good for him to be recognized.”
Paul, aka “the hot sauce apostle,” is constantly creating new flavors. The most recent addition to the collection is Banana Reaper Split. It promises banana in the first bite with a swift kick of spice to follow. Tasia drizzles it on cheesecake and uses it to make her spicy peach cobbler. She recommends using AZ Jerk sauce in pasta.
The Fords want you to get creative with their sauces. There is a sweet potato pie recipe on Big Red’s Instagram made with AZ Jerk sauce, and some people put Prickly Pear on ice cream.
Along with the gift shop and website, you can find Big Red’s products at a number of local stores and farmers’ markets. The gift shop is by appointment only. Call, text, email, use Instagram or Facebook to schedule a visit.
There’s a surprise brewing for Big Red’s 10-year anniversary, which is coming up in November, according to the Fords. Follow them on Instagram for updates.
Big Red’s Hot Sauce
10439 North Cave Creek Road, Suite 104
Hours: Tuesday to Friday by appointment
Phone: (877) 651-9931