Steamboat Springs On one of her first dates with Clay Meers, Tami Summy pulled out a bottle of hot sauce from her purse.
“That sort of sealed the deal,” Summy said.
After that came a wedding, a baby girl and a hot sauce company.
“Clay and I both are hot sauce aficionados to say the least,” Summy said.
Yampa Valley Sauce Co. was started to combine flavors that Meers and Summy wanted on their food but were unavailable outside home concoctions. The results, so far, have been Habacado and Strabeñero, illustrative portmanteaus of habanero, avocado and strawberry, respectively.
“I think actually the first inspiration was fish tacos,” Summy said. “It was just kind of our thing. We made it all the time.”
Hot sauce and avocados were requisite additions, and Summy and Meers began to wonder if it would work to combine both into one convenient sauce.
“We did it at home a few times — literally just a few bottles — and we’d refrigerate it and use it ourselves,” Summy said. “Friends and family for sure were the first to try it, and everyone really loved it and we really loved it.”
There are some who just want hot sauces for the heat, she said, but those types of sauces add little flavor and can be too much for a lot of people.
Yampa Valley Sauce Co.’s two signature flavors are designed to be more versatile.
“All of our ingredients are 100 percent fresh,” Summy said, and even the Strabeñero is without any added sugar.
Summy and Meers are scooping avocados and blending strawberries all themselves.
“That’s what makes our product really special,” she said.
The Mainstreet Farmers Market in downtown Steamboat Springs was what helped shift Yampa Valley Sauce Co. from a hobby to a business.
“We had to make it out of a commercial kitchen,” Summy said. “You have to have licensing and (go to) food processing school.”
Meers brings a culinary background, and Summy has marketing and product branding experience, resulting in clean packaging that eschews the typical cartoon pepper.
“The test market was the Farmers Market,” she said. “It was just a great response.”
From there, they started branching out and getting their two sauces on local shelves, such as Bamboo Market and Elevated Olive.
A lot of their orders now come online from www.yvsauce.com. They’ve been working with local consultant Terry Brown and recently started going to hot sauce trade shows to get further exposure.
“We’re working on expanding on the Front Range because we have a lot of requests,” Summy said.
The business is at a point where it’s still manageable with just the two of them, Summy said, but it’s a lot of work.
She quit her full-time job in December, and they’ve taken the plunge to go all-in with the company.
“If we want this to be at the level where we want it to be, we need to invest all of our time and all of our resources,” Summy said. “It’s doing well. It’s the ultimate dream for both of us.”
To reach Michael Schrantz, call 970-871-4206, email mschrantz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @MLSchrantz