By: Staff Reports | Gwinnett Citizen
By: Staff Reports | Gwinnett Citizen

The American dream lives
By Christine Martinello

Sometimes life takes unexpected twists and turns.  John Byrwa, aka JB, Founder of JB’s Best Hearty Hot Sauce, is the kind of person who makes the best of those changes and creates opportunities.  

“I never in a million years dreamed that I’d own a hot sauce company,” Byrwa said, “but I love it.”  You can hear it in the tone of his voice and see it in the pride he has to produce a high-quality product coupled with great service. 

JB and his wife, Vicki, have been married for 12 years and they work together in the business.  They have two sons; Nicholas is 10 years old and Christopher is 3.  JB said, “Both of our boys love our sauce!”           

JB's Best Hearty Hot SauceJB was born and raised in Buffalo, NY, which is also where Buffalo hot wings were invented.  While growing up there, he worked with his cousins and family in Dicks Cafe, the restaurant owned by his Uncle Dick.  As JB says, Dick’s Cafe was located right behind the Chevy plant and open virtually 24 hours a day for the plant workers.  It was JB’s Aunt Roz who created a recipe for the hot sauce that they used on their chicken wings. “I took Aunt Roz’s recipe and tweaked it here and there to add our own little touch,” he said.

In 1976, JB’s Dad was transferred with AT&T and the family moved to Gwinnett County, GA.  He graduated from Duluth High School in 1980, Oxford College of Emory University and then Georgia State University, majoring in Journalism.   He had a long career in journalism as a sports writer with the Gwinnett Daily News, CNNSI.com, the web site for Sports Illustrated, and as managing editor of PGA.com, the official site for The Professional Golfers’ Association. 

Years later, JB and Vicki took pride in making chicken wings at home. Many times they would invite friends and family over to their home for football parties and, of course, served chicken wings.  

“Every time people would come over and have our wings, they would say, ‘These wings are awesome. Where did you get this sauce?’ We’d tell them we made it ourselves, and they would say, ‘You need to sell this stuff!’ Well, you hear that often enough and you start thinking, ‘Hmm, what would it take to start a hot sauce company?’”

For a year they researched what it would take to start a hot sauce company.  In March of 2014 JB and Vicki opened JB’s Best Hearty Hot Sauce. Three months later, JB was laid off from his position with PGA.com.

JB said, “It has been incredible.  God has been leading us in this direction.  We have met so many wonderful people and things have just fallen into place for us.”    

Opportunity came knocking at his first Servsafe class, which is a food-safety class required for everyone who works in the restaurant industry.  It was there that JB met Tim Piccolo, owner of Piccolo’s Italian Steakhouse in nearby Watkinsville, GA.

“It was an act of God to meet and work with Tim.”  JB recalls.  “During one of the breaks, I was standing outside, wearing my Buffalo Bills cap. Tim came up to me and said, ‘Are you a Bills fan?’ I jokingly said, ‘No, I just like taking abuse,’ because the Bills have been so bad lately.

“Well, he says, ‘Really?’ I’m from Rochester.’ After chatting for a while, he asked me where I was making my sauce, and said I was still looking for a place. Then he says, “Oh man, I have a tip-and-pour cooker in my kitchen and it would be perfect for you. You can use that.’ It was amazing.”

Before Piccolo’s opens for business, JB makes his hot sauce in the restaurant’s kitchen. Tim even features JB’s sauce in some of his specials.

“He’s been so awesome and generous,” JB said. “It works out perfectly.”  

Currently there is only one JB’s Best sauce.  “We decided we were going to do one thing and do it the best we can,” he said.  The sauce has all natural ingredients.

“There are a thousand people out there trying to make hot sauce,” JB said. “And what we found is that most of them are trying to burn your face off. That’s not what our sauce is. Ours is more hearty and flavorful. It really enhances the flavor of the food it’s used on.”

People use JB’s Best Hearty Hot Sauce on chicken wings, chicken fingers, salads, hamburgers, steak, fish and especially eggs.  If you visit JB’s Facebook page, you’ll see all sorts of happy customers using the sauce in creative ways.

In case your mouth is watering and you are wondering how you can try it, you can buy three 10-ounce bottles for $15 online.  JB’s is also available at the Ace Hardware in Braselton, The Cider Mill in Scottsdale, AZ, and a few other restaurants.

JB is always looking for opportunities to share the sauce and grow the business.  

“It’s going remarkably well.”  JB says.  “Business is growing through word of mouth and social media, and we’re on a nice, steady trajectory.”

The majority of the early orders were from friends and family.  Now they get orders from other states and people they don’t know.  “That’s when we really knew that our plan to let it grow virally through word of mouth was working,” JB said. 

JB is planning to move into the dry rub market and the private label market soon.  Companies can buy the sauce to use as a marketing tool and put their logo on a smaller-sized bottle.  It’s a win-win for everyone.    

“We’re real excited about the possibility of hosting a chicken wing eating contest for football and basketball high school athletic departments,” JB excitedly said.  He would like to sponsor fundraising events with high schools, during which student-athletes would get people to sponsor them for how many chicken wings they could eat. Of course, they would be slathered in JB’s Best Hearty Hot Sauce.

Move over ‘Man vs. Food’.    

JB’s is a true family business.  “My wife and I make the sauce, bottle it and ship it,” he said. “And my beautiful nieces – Jenna, Jessica and Katie Falletta -- also help out at events.” With JB’s positive outlook and passion for his business, opportunities will continue to come knocking.  He is ready.   

JB is happy to chat with folks.  You can reach him via: Email:  jb@jbsbest.com

To place an order visit:  http://www.jbsbest.com/