Things keep heating up for owners of Red Hot Foods

April 04, 2012
Santa Paula News

They knew each other in an Arizona high school, but it wasn’t until many years later that Butch and Burma Baselice met again. And things really heated up, so much in fact that the couple now owns Red Hot Foods.

The Santa Paula-based company not only prepares and bottles a variety of salsas, jams, peanut butters, pestos, cold lavender lemonades, spices and sauces under their own brand names, but they also serve about 15 clients - providing everything from ingredients to labels - through their California Boutique Cannery. Now the Baselices also have a retail store attached to their facility, a riot of color and good things to eat as well as beauty products, candles and decorating and serving items, many with a chili pepper motif. 

The cannery is all natural: no preservatives, dyes or filler products in its killer hot sauces, BBQ sauces and ketchups and mustards - mild to wild -among the products produced at the cannery.

The Baselices are committed community boosters and benefactors. Their latest project is preparing three custom salsas, hot, medium and mild, to benefit the Santa Paula Police & Fire Foundation’s K-9 Fund. 

The business grew from Butch’s professional experience with restaurants, and was complemented by Burma’s love of quick and easy cooking. “I call myself a 10-minute cook... if I can get the salad and the dessert in the same pan I’m happy,” joked Burma. “But when I looked at all these salsas I thought there has to be more than chips,” and recipes came to mind. 

Butch said the business started in 1995: “We filled a niche” of those smaller food companies that balked at ordering 500 cases of their product from co-packers. The cannery will package foods for clients prepared on site with a minimum of only 50 cases. 

The company started in Oxnard and then moved to Santa Paula in 2005, first to a small building on 12th Street and now in the 3,800 square foot complex on the corner of Railroad Avenue and 9th Street. 

“We had it all here” when they first moved in about a year ago, but Burma said Butch saw something else in the future. “The first thing that came out of his mouth was ‘retail,’” and creating the store became a family affair, albeit a blended family of four children, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. 

Red Hot, which has its own brand as well as Channel Islands among others, including the Oxnard Salsa Festival, is a welcome addition to Santa Paula’s retail scene said Debbie Johnson, president of the Downtown Merchants Association. “It’s a great addition to our retail base,” and being only one block from Main Street “makes it definitely part of the downtown. I’m really pleased; it’s a great store with wonderful items,” including the jams Johnson had just purchased.

Fred Morales, who makes his SoCal Jerky at the facility, has been working with the Baselices for about 18 months. “I’m really excited about it, they’re just good people,” said Morales, who also built and manages the on-site specialty hot chili pepper greenhouse that supplements product bought from local farmers.

Mayor Bob Gonzales said his co-worker in Santa Monica orders online from the company. “This is great,” Gonzales said of the retail store. “People have a variety of items they can purchase and it’s good not only for the sales tax, but the niche” of shoppers it creates. “It’s a new flavor from Santa Paula, a really good flavor.”

At the company’s grand opening there were several client booths, including Wild Willy’s Salsa Company. 

Steven Stroh was overseeing samples from his Chef Stroh’s Pesto line: “When I was a chef my boss said never waste anything,” which prompted Stroh to start experimenting with various foods to make unique and versatile pestos. In business for just about four months, Stroh’s pestos are in 19 stores in four counties after “I took a little road trip” with his wares bottled and labeled by the Baselices.

Burma said the company approaches each product it creates or cans with the same philosophy: “We don’t make them if we can’t sell them.” And to sell ways to use the variety of sauces sold at the store.

“We have an Italian salsa” perfect for pouring on chicken ready to bake or to spice up spaghetti sauce. “There’s a ton of things you can do with salsas and we package it, sell it and eat it.” 

And share it: Butch said, “We want to work with the people of Santa Paula to promote Santa Paula and support the community. We love it here,” and now live in the town the couple would admire even when residents of Ventura. 

“When I lived in Ventura Santa Paula was a really small town, but I always wanted to live here,” said Butch. “And now we do,” Burma added. 

“If there’s anything exciting going on we want to know, want to help,” said Butch. “What we’re doing for the police K-9s is we’ll be at the spaghetti dinner fundraiser with the special salsas and we’re going to donate something from every case we sell. Those that buy the salsa can sell it any price they want and do the same thing. We’ll take it to the restaurants and the businesses” to widen the customer base and in turn raise more money for the program.

“We like dogs,” and Burma noted that also liked is Santa Paula Police Department Senior Officer and K-9 Handler Larry Johnson, a high school friend of Butch’s son. “We’re just waiting to get approval on the label” featuring the SPPD’s three K-9s and their officer handlers, said Butch, but he was interrupted when a customer stepped through the door.

“I’m back,” the woman said gaily. “I can feel the heat!”

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