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Barrie entrepreneur all fired up over hot sauce business

Terry Williams, who doubles as a local transit driver, had burning desire to get back to business as pandemic rules eased
Terry Williams developed Terry's hot sauces available at the Barrie Farmers' Market and shops across the region.

Terry Williams was burning to get back to business as pandemic rules eased.

With markets back open and independent shops that carry his products resuming operations, the mastermind behind Terry’s Unique Hot Sauce is back to whipping up 130-litre batches of his popular mixture, which traces its roots back nearly four decades.

The Barrie Transit driver first started developing his special recipe following the early introduction to chicken wings in the United States.

While vacationing in upper New York state, he marvelled at the flavour of Buffalo wings and began researching recipes and ingredients. And for years he happily made his favourite wing sauce at home for friends and family.

When Barnstormer Brewing & Distilling Co. Brewpub Restaurant opened in Williams’ south-end Barrie neighbourhood several years back, it put out word that it was open to local input.

“I thought, ‘OK, I’ll head down there and offer them my sauce’,” Williams tells BarrieToday. “They liked it and they started carrying it.

“I had no idea I was going into business. … I just said ‘pay me in beer’.”

The volume increased, that relationship was formalized and Terry’s Unique Hot Sauce was born.

The key to the nine different flavours he now makes is finding the right ingredients and sourcing them locally whenever he can, Williams says.

And it’s not just about making a hot product, but rather offering something that’s tasty with a variety of different heat levels on the Scoville scale.

The basis for his hottest sauce, the aptly named Don’t Fear the Reaper, is his original recipe. It also includes Scotch bonnet and jalapeno peppers.

“So it’s still got lots of flavour, but it’s got a lot more heat,” he says.

His Natural Sauce is made from fresh jalapeno peppers instead of picked and fresh horseradish instead of prepared. Working with horseradish tends to bring on the tears and is one of his least favourite chores.

His Festive Cranberry sauce is made with Carter’s Maple Syrup and Bala cranberries.

Karen's Tropical Heat, named after his wife who developed the recipe, uses Adam’s Honey.

“We just buy here, around town,” he says, adding the peppers come from everywhere.

His most popular sauce, Cherry Bomb, is made with the Wiri Wiri pepper from Guyana.

A Barrie restaurateur who uses the Terry’s sauces introduced him to the pepper and helped him source them in Toronto.

Williams says he likes using the sauces as an ingredient when making dishes like meatloaf, spaghetti sauce, chili and even zucchini loaf  which he’s sampled at the Barrie Farmers' Market.

And then there’s the chicken wings. Add butter to his original sauce, he says, and you’ve got some pretty tasty Buffalo wings.

As he builds the business back up to pre-pandemic levels, he says he’s encouraged that Kawartha Dairy recently put in large order for all its locations after an 18-month hiatus. He also recently added Redline Brewhouse as a customer.

And he’s back to bringing his products to local markets.

He gets a kick out of talking to his customers at the Barrie Farmers' Market and has been making his way through the array of local holiday markets as well as Santa’s Village. It’s a family affair, with Karen involved in the entire process, and her sister, Janis Lamoureux, helping with sales.

Williams wants to keep growing his business and do it full-time when he retires from his day job next year, but he wants to retain that local flavour, continuing small-batch, handmade production without preservatives, putting it all together at a local commercial kitchen, and selling the products to customers himself.

The hot sauce market differentiates itself through small-batch producers who carve out a region that they tend to serve, he says. And Williams wants to keep concentrating on the Simcoe, Muskoka and York regions.

“I just want to get big enough where it’s still fun to do, go out and even deliver stuff yourself and go to festivals and markets, because you meet a lot of fun people, and just enjoy it,” he says. “Not to where I’m sitting behind a desk saying I need to order this many thousands of bottles. That doesn’t seem fun to me. Then it’s a job.”