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This San Diegan’s BBQ sauce earned a spot in grocery stores across SoCal. But it wasn’t easy getting there

Antonio Mays is an professional butcher, barbecue pitmaster and the founder of The Initial Scratch Company, a southeastern San Diego business that helps make all-natural barbecue sauce.

But none of these titles came effortlessly to Mays. All over his lifestyle, he’s uncovered strategies to turn obstructions into chances.

That’s exactly what occurred when the pandemic shut down all of the farmers markets and situations he worked at advertising his Scratch BBQ Sauce. Alternatively of traveling up and down the state to serve contemporary barbecue, Mays invested his time and funds into figuring out how to get his sauce into retail outlets.

And it compensated off. He applied to the Gelson’s “Local Discoveries Contest” — an annual research for new, nearby solutions — and beat out hundreds of candidates for a spot on the grocer’s retail outlet cabinets. Now, folks can obtain Mays’ barbecue sauce at all 27 Gelson’s areas throughout Southern California.

The 46-yr-previous entrepreneur stated it indicates anything to see his products on the shelves. When he produced the soar to go all-in on his business, having his item on the shelves of any area grocery retail outlet was one particular of his first aims.

The San Diego indigenous runs the firm with his 9-12 months-previous daughter, Feven, who he says loves the business and even has her have small sales pitch. They offer two flavors of Scratch BBQ Sauce, primary and spicy, for $8.99 per jar.

Mays describes his barbecue sauce as a balance of sweet, savory and vinegary flavors with a thicker regularity many thanks to the uncooked components they use like entire tomatoes and onions. He opted for just a single form of sweetener since he explained utilizing way too several “muddies up the flavor.”

The spicy variation is built with scotch bonnet peppers, which he reported are hotter than jalapenos but “they’re not overboard like Carolina reaper” peppers. The taste is also a nod to the spices applied in Jamaican jerk chicken, one thing he grew up feeding on.

Mays has been operating on his sauce for practically 30 many years, and it began out with him doctoring up retailer-purchased barbecue sauces. He was normally building it for loved ones and mates at events. Their beneficial feed-back encouraged him to figure out a recipe that was his individual from the floor up.

So a great deal of his everyday living working experience is described by his willingness to discover via demo and error, which Mays said was the scenario when he began his business pretty much 10 yrs in the past. His operate ethic is something he attributes to his dad and mom, both equally entrepreneurs in their have suitable.

For him, barbecue assisted bridge loved ones divides. Mays and his brother were being elevated by a solitary father who, he jokingly mentioned, couldn’t cook dinner in the kitchen without burning a little something, but he could “throw it down” on the barbecue.

Even however they were being inadequate and moved about a whole lot, he stated “barbecuing just turned aspect of the knowledge of childhood.”

And it was this appreciate for barbecue sauce — and relatives — that fueled his extended road to results.

Even though he worked on the facet to great his barbecue sauce, Mays needed a whole-time work. So he talked his way into a work as a butcher at a community grocery shop, even though he had no experienced encounter. At the time, he was a one father with a 1-year-old son and that yr they knowledgeable a period of time of homelessness.

Mays sooner or later wound up operating the grocery keep meat office for numerous several years and now he can convey to you all about cooking times and what tastes very good on distinctive cuts of meat.

Closup of Antonio Mays arms holding five jars of his company's barbecue sauce in original and spicy flavors.

Antonio Mays says his barbecue sauce comes in two flavors and it is all manufactured with full substances. The label for Scratch BBQ Sauce was designed by Los Angeles artist, Crushow Herring, aka ShowzArt.

(Courtesy of Gelson’s/John Dole Images)

Right after the housing marketplace crashed in 2008, he misplaced his work managing the meat department. Mays switched gears to get certified and function as a health care assistant at Kaiser Permanente.

All the although, he ongoing to showcase his homemade barbecue sauce at farmers marketplaces all in excess of the county from Hillcrest to Rancho Santa Fe to Escondido. When the sauce started off to take off, he labored overtime at the healthcare facility. Mays saved up that revenue to acquire an financial commitment residence in Los Angeles and pooled that income to switch his sauce into his entire-time business in 2013.

“If you really do not think in what you acquired, or if you really do not have the bravery to leap out there, individuals two points will haunt you eternally,” he said.

Mays was adamant when they scaled up output of his handmade sauce that the manufacturer in Anaheim find out how to make it with out any additives.

“If it’s not produced from scratch, I can’t simply call this scratch and if I can’t phone it scratch, I simply cannot go into business simply because I don’t feel superior about what I’m supplying a shopper,” he advised the maker.

Although it may well price tag him more revenue to make the item his way, Mays claimed it’s well worth it. Not long ago, Mays and his daughter traveled to 21 Gelson’s grocery suppliers to demo their sauce and share their story.

He added that winning the Gelson’s contest has been a blessing due to the fact it permits him to promote right to clients with out compromising his product quality or gains by heading by way of a distributor. Mays explained the business has been lucrative and likely ahead he sees the enterprise growing with his daughter in the very long term.

“She’s bought a lengthy everyday living in entrance of her and the simple fact that she loves the enterprise … she’s received the possibility to go to higher education and choose the lessons that I did not choose to get this business to a stage of production that I’m not ready to acquire it to due to the fact I gotta be the solitary dad,” he explained.

Another massive-picture intention for him is to sometime start out a nonprofit arm of the business that encourages accessibility to healthful food items for underserved communities.