June has been quite a month for Small Axe Peppers, the makers of Bronx Hot Sauce. Last week the mission-driven hot sauce brand won the second annual Project NOSH Pitch Slam, and now the company announced that it’s extending its community garden business model to a new borough: Queens.
Small Axe Peppers is adding “Queens 7 Greenmarket Hot Sauce” to its portfolio, the company announced today. Community gardens from The Rockaways to Long Island City will grow and sell jalapeño peppers used in the sauce.
“We are lucky that there is a great network of community gardens and even large urban farms in Queens,” Bronx Hot Sauce Vice President Daniel Fitzgerald told NOSH. “The landscape of the gardening scene is slightly different, but we will use the structures we have in place from The Bronx. The two only shared resources is that Small Axe Peppers now markets and sells both of them, which reduces administrative costs.”
Bronx Hot Sauce, which was founded three years ago, is made from serrano peppers grown in community gardens throughout the brand’s namesake borough. The company purchases the peppers at competitive prices to provide better wages for the gardeners growing them. Last year, more than 30 Bronx community gardens grew 1,500 pounds of serrano peppers for the hot sauce line. To fulfill all orders, the brand supplements its locally grown peppers with peppers grown upstate and expects to do the same with the Queens line.
The Queens line not only utilizes a different pepper, but also a different recipe — although both were developed by chef King Phojanakong. Fitzgerald said the new line will retail for the same price as the Bronx line at $6.99 for 5 oz. Currently Bronx Hot Sauce is sold in more than 250 stores across New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, including regional Whole Foods. Fitzgerald said the company is currently working to bring the new line into all of its existing retailer partners.
GrowNYC, a local environmental nonprofit that operates Greenmarket, is an operating partner in the deal. The nonprofit helps to distribute pepper seedlings and create relationships with farmers and urban gardens, and receives five percent of total revenue. Queens Botanical Garden will act as a local partner to coordinate with many of the gardens in the new borough.
This will be the company’s first attempt at scaling its business. Fitzgerald said the company’s goal was always to bring their local model to new neighborhoods and cities.
“We thought if the model worked in The Bronx it would work in other boroughs and cities,” Fitzgerald said. “This is an economic model that was always intended to apply in any urban setting where there is a flourishing urban garden and community outreach scene.”
The ability to scale and keep both efficient operations and the company’s authenticity was one point of concern for the judge’s during last week’s pitch slam. Fitzgerald mentioned during NOSH Live a desire to integrate the judge’s feedback into the company’s proposed plan. He added no matter how big they grow, the company’s mission and story will always be his No. 1 priority.
“The most important thing is to continue connecting to customers through the story of these community gardens and urban farms,” he said. “The more people we can reach, the more buy-in and investment we will have from customers.”
Watch below to check out our interview with Fitzgerald post-Pitch Slam victory at NOSH Live in New York City at the Metropolitan West on June 12.