John Crotty was looking for a building in the Bronx for his affordable housing development organization when by chance he spotted an empty lot with southern exposure. In a flash, he saw his future.
“What’s going on with that space over there?” Crotty thought to himself. He immediately knew the trash strewn plot was perfect for a community garden. His next thought was about what they could possibly grow there. His mind jumped to growing peppers and making hot sauce out of them, because “it was the only thing we could grow in a confined space and make more of an end product. One hundred pounds of peppers becomes 500 pounds of hot sauce. All other fresh produce for commercial purposes goes the other way—you grow 100 pounds to sell 75.”
So Crotty contacted his childhood friend King Phojanakong, chef and owner of the Lower East Side’s Kuma Inn, and asked him to develop some sauces, which ultimately became the Small Axe Peppers line. “I told him what I wanted to do and asked him to be the chef.” Crotty adds, kidding, “I’m sure he regrets it.”
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