MONROE, Conn. (AP) – For those who like it hot, this place is sizzlin’.

With more than 400 pepper and barbecue sauces that run the gamut from tame to torrid, the Angry Pepper, a new shop on Main Street at Stepney Road, is spicing up the local culinary scene.

“Hot sauce or barbecue enthusiasts come here thinking they are alone and find a lot of friends,” said Liam Callahan, who runs the shop with his brother Owen. “People who don’t like spicy foods always know or are related to someone who can’t get enough of them.”

Callahan, 38, who resigned after a decade as a Norwalk police officer to open the shop last Aug. 30, said he became interested in hot sauce as a boy, while Owen, 39, employed as a Ford salesman, is a fan of grilling and barbecue.

“I started out with Tabasco sauce and moved on to other hot sauces,” Liam Callahan, a Newtown resident, said. “My brother is a barbecue sauce fanatic. Even with snow on the ground, he may be found outside at the grill.”

The Callahan brothers decided to open the shop after realizing there is nothing like it in Connecticut, with the nearest one being in Port Jefferson on Long Island. Hot sauce shops are more common in the South, where barbecue and Cajun food are part of life, he added.

“The economic downturn doesn’t affect our business. Cooking as a hobby has become very popular,” Liam Callahan said. “People don’t want to deprive themselves of the few things that give them pleasure. They’ll find a lot of things here they can’t find in a grocery store.”

The shop’s “angry pepper” logo and name is based on a sketch Owen Callahan drew while working as an artist in the advertising field.

The shop, fronting on Main Street, is part of a retail complex that also houses an ice cream store, a bead shop, cigar store, liquor store and a small restaurant. It is open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. It is closed Monday.

“Chili heads and barbecue fans come here to socialize and talk, sample the wares and explore choices,” Liam Callahan said. “Their eyes light up when they see what we have. One guy had chili peppers tattooed on his arm.”

Several customers of the Angry Pepper grow various hot peppers in their home vegetable gardens, he said, but turning them into a sauce that preserves the flavor of the pepper and not just its heat might be challenging.

“This store is a gem. It’s fun,” said Janice Dimon of Redding, who purchased salsa during a recent visit. She asked Callahan why he opened a shop filled with hot sauce.

“I saw a need,” he replied.

After surveying the many products, another customer, Lisa DeStefano of Newtown, selected a couple of bottles of cucumber pickles spiced with hot peppers.

Mora-Lynne Brenner of Bridgeport came to the shop looking for a hot sauce she could use to make a cocktail sauce for shrimp and settled on one called, “Scorned Woman: Absolute Best.” Callahan assured her it is popular among customers.

Meanwhile, a couple from Virginia, who had been visiting relatives in Trumbull, breezed in and bought a bag full of hot sauces.

The hottest sauces, Callahan explained, are made with the Bhut Jolokia pepper grown in India, billed as the hottest on earth – even hotter than a habanero or Scotch Bonnet. Milder sauces can be concocted with the jalapeno, which has a much lower heat rating, he said.

Aside from catering to people who enjoy hot food, the shop has proved to be very entertaining, because several mainstream hot sauce companies offer products with outrageous names and colorful labels. Blair’s, for example, markets a range of “death” sauces, ranging from Sweet Death and Ultra Death to After Death, each bearing a picture of a skull.

By contrast, CaJohns, another company, sells conservatively bottled wares, containing pastes made from jalapeno, fatali or habanero peppers.

While some of the items might appear more expensive than ones offered on-line, shipping costs from Internet providers make the shop’s selections quite affordable, Callahan said.

Besides, he said the shop offers a place to meet other people who like it hot, sample the wares and explore dozens of choices.

“The sauces involve a never-ending learning process. We try to find whatever our customers request,” Callahan said. “We are always looking to add something to our shelves – the more unusual the better.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.