Local resident spices up the kitchen with special hot sauce
Published 10:09 am Tuesday, July 28, 2015
A Brookhaven resident and Natchez native has turned a family recipe for hot sauce into a one-woman company bringing “quality heat” to the culinary world.
Ashleigh Aldridge, owner of D’Evereux Foods, LLC, said she never pictured herself living at home in Mississippi. Aldridge grew up in Natchez and moved to North Louisiana in 2008, where she studied marketing and management at the University of Louisiana at Monroe. Forgoing graduate school and deciding to come home, Aldridge was in need of a career. Not more than a week after graduating ULM, Aldridge and her father ran with an idea he had of starting a hot sauce company with a recipe he’d developed with Aldridge’s younger brother.
“I always wanted to do culinary school at some point but was never much on hot sauce,” Aldridge said. “I always felt like it was some mystery red liquid that always burnt my mouth. I never could see the upside to eating it. After trying what I like to call ‘quality heat,’ I was in love.”
A young company, D’Evereux Foods operated as a “cottage industry,” unsure what it would amount to until August 2014 when business began taking off. Now, Aldridge is the sole owner and operator of a company with more than 120 retailers in more than 20 states and two countries. There are also 39 cities in Mississippi that carry the sauce in more than 70 locations. Four of the locations are right here in Brookhaven, at both Piggly Wiggly locations, Country Meat Market on 550 and K&B Seafood.
Aldridge said D’Evereux prides itself on creating a big flavor profile, rather than heat alone. She said they start with their signature flavor and add heat accordingly. Sophisticated blends of spices and peppers combine to make the bold, ground pepper sauce Pepper Sauce Rouge; the milder, twangy fermented pepper sauce, Fermente; and the lime and garlic-infused ground pepper sauce with a lot of heat from ghost peppers, Fantome.
Most mornings Aldridge wakes up early and commutes to her retail shop in Natchez.
“I am the only person in the company, so I do everything. Accounting, inventory, manufacturing, retail, wholesale, online, graphic design — you name it, I do it,” Aldridge said. “On a normal day, I wake up early and drive to Natchez. I open my retail shop and begin checking emails. When there are no customers, I ship out any orders from online, contact retailers, ship wholesale orders, pay bills, sign up for trade shows, manufacture and bottle sauce, label sauce, deliver local orders, make deposits and do book keeping. After that, I drive home to Brookhaven and spend the evenings with my dogs and my boyfriend.”
Aldridge said while it is not often that she gets to sleep in or go to a girls’ night, running her own business is the most rewarding experience that she’s had thus far.
“I love every minute of it,” Aldridge said. “The hustle of a huge last minute order; the late nights that pay off; the mistakes that teach you something. I love it. Having my family participate in the company and being able to see them is wonderful, and I can’t imagine D’Evereux Foods without them.”
Luckily for Aldridge, this summer has meant sibling support from her brother and sister. D’Evereux Foods is launching a new line of jams to cities all over Mississippi, and beyond, this week.
“I learned to appreciate my state. I grew up always wanting to be somewhere, anywhere else,” Aldridge said. “When I came home, I thought it would be tough. I was wrong — I love living here. If I have a question, there is always a local business owner I can call who has been there and done that.
“Everyone is so helpful and encouraging,” Aldridge said. “This company wouldn’t have worked somewhere else. Mississippi has been good to us and I want to always repay that to my state.”
With an explosion of business, growth and recognition in less than a year — and a happy owner — Aldridge says she is poised for continued success.
“For me, success is happiness. As long as I’m happy then I am successful,” she said. “For the company, success is profitability and longevity, and I think it is headed in the right direction.”