Liza Dimitri with a jar of her most popular sauce. Submitted photo

For former teacher Liza Dimitri, starting her own company took trial, error and barbecue sauce.

We asked the Auburn entrepreneur about getting her start, getting her products into local businesses and what you’d never think to add  sauce to, but should.

Name: Liza Dimitri

Age: 47

Lives: Auburn

How did 3 Spicy Boys get its start? My close friends and family will know this, but my company actually began as “Hoosier Mama’s BBQ Sauce” many years ago. My Mom is from upstate New York, and we frequently visit Dinosaur Bar-B-Que in Syracuse each summer. I decided to try my hand at making my version of their original BBQ sauce and had my family test it out. Everyone loved it, and so I decided to sell it at a craft fair in Poland, Maine, over 10 years ago. I also jarred the . . . sauce for Christmas gifts, as well as selling it to friends. When I decided to trademark my company eight years ago, my lawyer advised me to change the name, as there were too many other Hoosier-related companies in the market. She didn’t want us to waste time and money. My friends, family and I went through so many different name ideas and finally a friend of mine helped me come up with the name, 3 Spicy Boys. Needless to say, she earned free sauce for life.

How old are your actual spicy boys? And do they test-test or inspire any flavors? Our boys are 16, 14 and 12 years old, and they LOVE to taste test new flavors or whatever sauce I am currently making in my tiny kitchen. They also like to guess which of the eight flavors I am cooking by the delicious smells that waft through the house while they are home all the time with full remote schooling. They have yet to inspire any flavors, but you just never know what the future holds.

What’s your process like? I have a few mantras/sayings with my business and one of them is, “small batches, made to order.” Therefore, I usually wait for an order to come in and then I fill it as well as making a bit more sauce to have on hand. This way, I have a small inventory at the house for those VIP customers that want some BBQ sauce randomly in the middle of the week and can’t get to the store. I do not make sauce every day. Although pre-COVID, at the height of craft fair season, I would cook every day and made many batches every week, from early October through Christmas. That is definitely my busy season! Lately, I have been delivering to Little Ridge Farm almost weekly during 2021 and I am excited about a new farm in Houlton which just started carrying my sauce on their website (Sunnyside Family Farm).

How did working with Cibo Pizza and Gritty’s come about? Corwin at Cibo Pizza (in Auburn) was familiar with my BBQ sauce from Lost Valley (ski area in Auburn), as it was on the menu there, and he wanted to work with my BBQ sauce at his place. I was (and still am!) super excited to work with him, and absolutely LOVE his pizzas and other menu items. He is such an amazing chef! I’ve never been disappointed with my orders from Cibo.

I am a happy and long-time mug club member at Gritty’s in Auburn and had always wanted my BBQ sauce on their food menu. Gritty’s was actually the first restaurant to carry my BBQ sauce. I was so excited when I saw my company name in print on the menu! Gritty’s is currently serving the Mainely Maine Chicken sandwich, which uses my Maple Maine-ia BBQ sauce. I realize that I am biased, but it is a delicious meal. You can also order one of my other sauces on pizza, wings or to dip with your French fries.

Do you have a most popular flavor? My No. 1-selling flavor is Autumn Apple, closely followed by Maple Maine-ia, and then Wicked Mild Molasses.

One of the challenges of being a small business: One of the challenges of being a small business is that there is always work to be done. This is very similar to teaching, which was my first job as an adult, and I hope to return to teaching this fall. These days, I just have to decide to be done with BBQ sauce for the day and move onto the other aspects of my life. Otherwise, I could be making sauce, contacting new stores or marketing and designing every day.

One of the rewards: One of the rewards and something that I am proud of is that as an environmental science/policy and education major in college (zero business classes), I have been able to start and run this business all by myself. There were so many things that I had to do to get this BBQ sauce business off the ground. Sometimes, I wonder if I had known before what I know now, if I would have done it all again. But I am happy to say that I still enjoy making BBQ sauce and plan to continue cooking for years to come.

Three I-would-not-have-thought-to-add-barbecue-sauce combinations that surprisingly work: People instantly think MEAT with BBQ sauce, but I have friends who are vegetarians and put my BBQ sauce on their dishes as well. But my first unique combo would be Zing Zang BBQ sauce in my Bloody Mary. It adds a twist that I think that people will love. Secondly, I added Hotter than Hades BBQ sauce into my tomato soup the other day and it was the perfect way to kick up the heat! Lastly, I would like to credit my Mom who loves adding my Original Slammin’ BBQ sauce to casseroles that call for condensed tomato soup or tomato paste. She thinks that it makes the dish even more flavorful!

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