Thursday, By Appointment

In the beginning, we’d established Michigan Hot Sauce Club hours based on stock deliveries and peak times the mall was busiest. Thursday, Friday, Saturday.

Thursday was the day devoted to store-keeping. Parked in the fire-engine red and glittered, padded vinyl office chair behind the display counter, Jeff would scan new items into the register. Then, price label the goods, and find appropriate alphabetical space for each.

Not long in, we determined Thursday wasn’t going to be a big sale day. We downgraded to Thursday afternoon. Pretty quickly, realizing weekday sales were still rare, we decided to advertise, “Friday, Saturday, and Thursday by Appointment.”

I’d put the fear in him that check-ins were required, twice a day, or I’d freak out. That came about in response to a few incidents. One, notably, the time a physical therapist showed up for a home visit, and it appeared Jeff wasn’t home. After ringing the doorbell, knocking on the front and side doors, and phoning him, she called me.

She’d already looked in the front window and the office window. I asked her to please go around the side and peer into the den window by his chair. Thankfully, she did, reporting that she had knocked on the window and he hadn’t moved.

I begged her to, please, knock harder – as hard as she could. I told her I didn’t care if the siding was damaged or if the windowpane cracked. She whomped a few heavy-handed hits. That did the trick. Jeff’d been deep-sleep reclining in just his underwear.

Later, told me how embarrassed he was. I was more concerned that he’d missed the doorbell, the knocking and the phone ringing. I told him that he’d given me a panic attack. From here out, I demanded he always have his phone on the loudest setting possible, and that he keep it with him, at all times.

“Even in the bathroom?” Jeff joked, good-naturedly, rolling his eyes when I answered with an emphatic, “Yes!” I, also suggested, he should always be wearing pants or shorts. At all times. Especially, when he had appointments.

Thursday, September 29, 2006.

I worriedly called Jeff on my break at work. It was almost 10:00 am, and I hadn’t heard from him, yet.

It took me two, long-ringing tries to get him on the phone. When he answered, I immediately asked him, “Where were you?” “Morning constitution!” he quipped.  He told me he wasn’t “feelin’ too great,” and asked if I thought it would be ok if he took the new stuff down to the store on Friday.

I didn’t see a problem with that. We hadn’t had a Thursday sale in quite some time, and Friday mornings weren’t setting our profits on fire, either.

Jeff did end up bringing the boxes down that day, after lunch. He said he’d just had to force himself to “get on the giddy-up.”

Quote for the Week:2019 04 16 Adjustment is the key to almost everything jakorte

 

All Fired Up!

When Jeff had a dream, he dreamt big. He’d laugh and call it a vision.

And it would always begin with, “Suppose…”

All of our Michigan Hot Sauce Club store open house events began that way. We held tastings. Jeff made snappy dips, fiery cheeseballs and poured crab salsa over cream cheese. We’d line up 5 jars of salsa or 5 bottles of hot sauce or 5 bowls of fiery snacks/candy/cookies, labeling each with a heat index. Mostly, to protect the mild lovers from accidentally dipping into anything Blair’s or Dave’s Insanity.

He developed some unique chili – bean and corn, no-bean burger, smoked jalapeno brisket, and an amazing white bean chicken bright green chili, that took its color from an awesome sauce named Swap Scum.

My favorite heated creation was the Spicy Texas Sheet cake.  Such a perfect combination of cocoa and sugar and spice. I tried to make it once without him. It just wasn’t the same. I followed his recipe verbatim, but it lacked Jeff’s magic touch.

That’s not a flighty compliment. I firmly believe everything came out scrumptious simply because Jeff believed it would. Just as I know, he truly meant it when he said everything will be fine, even though it most likely wouldn’t. It was an admirable trait, which occasionally annoyed me to exasperation.

Yes, GOD would provide, but He gave us brains to figure out how we could help ourselves, as well. I was a disaster planner. Jeff was a ‘let’s see how this goes’ guy. Stress begets stress, but Jeff deflected well.

I’d say, “If this… then that.” He’d say, “Ok.”

I’d say, “But, if that, then this other thing.” Jeff would say, “Ok.”

I’d say, “Unless that other thing turns into another thing.” Jeff would say, “Let’s just see what happens.”

His weekly BNI meeting had incubated an idea he was all fired-up about. Pun intended; that was Jeff’s favorite tag line.

In fact, each meeting he would come up with a variation or punny description. “MHSC, the biggest little hot sauce store east of the Mississippi!” On Thanksgiving, it was the biggest little hot sauce store west of Turkey. On Halloween, it was the scariest little hot sauce store in Tecumseh. It became his trademark – members would look forward to what he would say next.

One evening, I came home to Jeff’s biggest “Suppose…”, yet.

Quote for the Week:

2018 10 23 theres no reason to dream small jakorte

Jalapeno Puppy!

My holiday seasons rarely lack spice. I know a lot of folks who like it somewhat hot, and some weirdos who like to see how hot they can go for equally weird bragging rights. There’re stories there, but ….

First let me introduce, Sadie the Pepper Pup. As hyper as she was, she also was terrified of weather an sounds. Not just rain and thunder, winds and motorcycles were equally scary. While having her nails clipped at a Lenawee Humane Society fund-raiser, Sadie shook a bit. When we said she was scared of a lot of things, we were advised that she should own a thunder shirt.

We eyeballed each other and seemed to silently agree to give it a try. On our way home with a pink camouflage doggie hoodie and a clipped puppy, Jeff mentioned he was kinda surprised I wanted to buy one. He thought I’d be doubtful. I was absolutely doubtful. I only went along with it because I thought he believed. We chuckled about that. As soon we got home, I sat Sadie down, and said, “Here goes nuthin…”

To our mutual surprise, she didn’t balk. It was surprisingly easy to get her in and out of it. And it was surprisingly easy for her to get it dirty. Instead of washing it every day, I went back and bought her another one.

After which, “I got to thinkin’” as Jeff would put it. I figured I could go to Salvation Army and get her some kids clothes. “What?” Jeff raised his eyebrows, “You’re gonna put her in pants?” “No, no. Not pants!” I shook my head. “Dresses?” he asked. “No, no.” I squinted in his direction. “Not dresses.” Just cheaper shirts so we didn’t have to do doggie laundry every other day. Just enough to get through a week. Jeff crinkled his eyebrows; his face and forehead followed. “She’s gonna have seven shirts?” he tried to clarify. “No, no.” I grinned at our silly conversation. “I’m thinking eight or nine, so she’ll have one to wear while we hers are in the washer….” “Geez,” he teased. “That dog’s gonna have more shirts than I have!”

Sadie’s (and my, our) fondness for shirts meandered easily into to holiday outfits. An American flag t-shirt for 4th of July, red with hearts for Valentine’s day, green for St Patrick’s day.

I was amazed when Jeff found a dog store on-line that also had  a wide selection of Halloween costumes. They were all so cute. As he was scrolling quickly, one in particular caught my eye. My crazy-chicken lady-ness kicked into high gear. “I want it!” I squealed. “That one,” I pointed – “that chicken dog-fit with a matching chicken head hat!”

Jeff said, “Oooo-k…, but what I really want to show you is… THIS!” he announced in a ta-dah flourish. And what to my wondering eyes should appear but an obviously, divinely, inspired red satin chile suit with ‘just picked’ greens as the neck.

“Ooooo,” I leaned over to get a better look, touching the screen as if I thought I could feel it. Both were definitely higher priced than the second-hand toddler shirts I’d been collecting. For some reason, though, the hot pepper was way more expensive than the chicken.

Leaning on Jeff’s shoulder, I decided out loud, “Well, we’ve just got to get that one!” “And the chicken, too?” he turned to ask. “Umm,” I pondered. “No, not right now,” I said. “Let’s just get this one. Maybe, we can make it a business expense…” Jeff just arched his eyebrows at me.  “You know…” I shrugged with a little smugly smile. “A business suit… for our new mascot!”

And that’s how Sadie the Pepper Pup came to be.

Quote for the Week:

2017 12 19 there seem to be more misunderstandings jakorte

Bonus Pictures:

2017 12 19 MHSC first year store Christmas card and santa and Sadie bonus pix jakorte

 

ps… would you please let me know if you’ve read this? all feed back welcome.

Fart Suite: Reluctance & Success

“I told you not to buy the Fart Corn!” I agitatedly exclaimed. “That’s just going to be a tacky waste of money.”  

“I don’t think so,” Jeff answered, reasonably, as always. “I think it’ll sell.”

Even worse, in my opinion, was that Jeff had purchased what he nicknamed “The Fart Suite.” Themed merchandise included 2 Old Fart hats, 2 Old Fart aprons, 6 boxes of Old Fart beans in 3 versions with various heats, 4 boxes of Fart Corn microwavable popcorn.

Everything else was fantastic. It took us about an hour to empty the boxes and gaze in wonder at the beautiful mess we’d made in the middle of our living room. Pieces of clingy Styrofoam peanuts attached themselves to Miss Fred speckling her with white dots like a reverse Dalmatian. Sadie didn’t care about the statics, she was too busy going wild over and chasing the crumpled paper purposely tossed to remove her curious nose from the goods.

We’d purchased two of each product to deepen the presentation, plus three of some things because Jeff felt he couldn’t recommend what we hadn’t tried. After a brief debate we settled on a presentation package. It made sense to grocery aisle the salsas in one spot, sauces another, all of the popcorn, chips candy and snacks, etc. In the end, though, we’d decided to shelve alphabetically for easy brand location and easier inventory.

Re-unpacking our goods in the store made us both a little giddy, and soon we were laughing over the ridiculously hard question of which end of the store the A’s should begin. We both beamed happily as we broke down the and hauled out the last box. Actually, Jeff hauled out the trash. It was while he was gone, that I saw it.

Jeff had apparently felt the need to ignore the alphabet and place the fart suite directly inside the door where it would never be missed, by anyone. I stealthily moved it to a less obvious spot, obviously between E and G.

A few days later, I noticed it had just as stealthily reappeared in it’s eye-grabbing spot. Only now, it was further emphasized by the adjacent wall hanging ball caps and hook swinging aprons. 

Wouldn’t you know, the very first item we sold out of was the dang Fart Corn. All 3 boxes went. Immediately.

Jeff couldn’t have been happier. At the other end of what I had envisioned as the classy, high-end the spectrum, I was pretty pleased, too. Sweet salsas and unusual savories were moving, too.

So much so, that two weeks after opening, we submitted another order to refill the outs, including the dang Fart Corn .

Quote for the Week: 

 

2017 11 07 its a lot easier to figure out who customer is jakorte

Enjoy this Week’s Discovery Links:  

 Display: Organize

Do What You Love: Yes

Do What You Love: No

 

 

Stocking Sauce

Once in motion, we spent every spare moment immersed. I’d come home from work and ask Jeff what he’d accomplished during the day and what we were going to work that night.

One evening he replied that he’d spent the day ‘getting sauced.’ The next day he’d said, “I got more sauced!” Each time a creative answer followed. “I’m having a saucy day!” “I got saucified!” “Saucing!” 

We spent three weekends preparing, in grocery stores, on the web, on Food Network, and on the phone locating our opening stock.

In stores, because we didn’t want to duplicate easily found sauces, and it was likely we wouldn’t be able to match the big store low price.

On the web, looking for other hot sauce ventures: makers, sellers, stores, web sites. Yes, it’s true. We culled the names of the more popular brands and small start-ups.

On Food Network because BBQ challenges, and the many city specific food discovery shows featuring small business owners and local specialties.

There were a ton of tiny outfits. We learned that even if a popular brand was already stocked in mainstream or gourmet specialty stores, often the hotter-hottest of the line was not.

Jeff made friends. And, I’m talking more than acquaintances. Even over the phone, he had the gift of friendliness.

Within a few days free samples began rolling in. Some came from new makers/suppliers Jeff discovered. Two of the larger branded names couldn’t accommodate our small 2-4 or at most 6 bottle orders, but they were willing to provide the name of businesses who would.

Jeff spoke to both sources and within a day, after Jeff and I had agreed and disagreed on some items, our first order was placed.

The disagreement was about anything with the name or word ‘fart’ or ‘ass’ included. I know it’s more of a man thing than a Jeff thing, but no matter what, I just didn’t find it funny. I never understood the guffawing over the fart scene in Blazing Saddles, either. Especially after seeing it for the umpteenth time. I will admit the only time I’ve ever found a fart funny was when Peter Sellers was involved.

My vision was more gourmet, experimental, unique. Jeff didn’t think anyone would ever be interested in olive salsa or crab salsa, but his approach was, “Why not? Let’s see what happens.” 

On a Wednesday, two big boxes of serious shipment had arrived.  I only remember it was a Wednesday because we were debating the merits of waiting until we could get the shipments to the store or opening them now and just being excited.

 With enthusiasm we tore open the loot. The first thing Jeff pulled out delighted him and annoyed me…

Quotes (from friends and I) for the Week:

2017 10 30 The Tecumseh Herald Oct 2004 opening jakorte

Enjoy This Week’s Discovery Links:

 

 Funny?: flatulence

What?: popcorn farts

How?: like this

Photo Essay Interlude …

Because old printed pictures tell a good story ….

First, the entire 8 foot by 8 foot Michigan Hot Sauce Club store! (See “Club?” blog)

Hand stamped spirals, hot pepper curtain, plastic shelves, and register counter.

2017 10 24 MHSC Store Layout jakorte

Next, the continuation of the driveway corn experience! (See “Canned” blog.)

We cooked 3 – yes 3 – pots of corn. Canned some plain, some with green peppers, chili peppers, onions and celery.

2017 10 24 Canned corning jakorte 10 24 2017

 

Plus, Jeff’s sense of humor and creativity – cabbage and cookies!

2017 10 24 Jeff took this picture cabbage

Stay tuned for next week’s blog: Stockings

 

 

 

 

 

Club?

(First, an embarrassing tidbit. So, I’ve mistakenly miss-remembered a crucial detail about our store. It was not 10 x 10. All of the newspaper article clippings I’ve saved clearly say that the space was even ridiculously smaller at only 8 x 8.  This makes me laugh. As do the many news articles, which I’ll share coming up.)

Jeff got to thinking… maybe having ‘Tecumseh’ in our name was too specific, too limiting. “Maybe we’ll want to open another store, someday, in another town.” he adorably, optimistically supposed.

I told him I liked the way he was thinking, and got to thinking, myself, too. I threw out, “Michigan Hot Sauce Company,” but that still seemed plain. And, then, from nowhere, I surprised myself and Jeff, too, by stating, “Michigan. Hot Sauce. Club.”

“Club?” Jeff wondered aloud in my direction, “but, we can’t call it a club if we’re not a club…”

“Well,” I started, “technically… we could be.” Looking at our dream blueprint, I pointed out that we were halfway there. We were already planning a monthly newsletter mailing; we already were planning on a ‘club’ type frequent buyer card.

All that was missing was meetings.

“We’re gonna having meetings? About what?” Jeff wanted to know.

“Well, maybe not ‘meetings’ exactly.” I explained. “I’m thinking special club member invitation only taste tests. Cooking demos. You love hot sauce and know so much about it. Do you think we could ask our members share recipes and make a cookbook out of that?”

Jeff’s big grin split and lit up his face. “You’re a genius,” he said. “I love the way you think!”

With a wonderful name on our lips, a license number to provide, we went into fast action. By this time, we only had two and a half weeks left in our promise to be open in three weeks. Timing was important because we wanted to be ready by the big ‘Grand Opening’ announcing the newest stores in the mall on September 23rd, 2004, and to be sure we still enough time to get our name out there before the Christmas and gift giving season.

We split up to divide and conquer and briefed each other throughout the day and every evening on our progress.

I had: décor, licensing, marketing, banking, budgeting.

Jeff had: fixtures, locating a manufacturer for our salsa (because we didn’t have and couldn’t afford a commercial kitchen), and the important cornerstone of hot sauce.

Quote for the Week:

2017 10 17 its embarrassing to have to fact check your own life jakorte 10 17 2017

Enjoy This Week’s Discovery Links:

About That: Memory

Fact Checking: Memories

Broadway Cat and: Memories