By Felicia A. Petro/Senior Reporter
BUTLER COUNTY —
A Butler County woman has expanded her signature, homemade barbecue sauce – which received some national attention last year on the Steve Harvey Show.
“It’s been pretty exciting,” said Rebecca McCrea, 40, of Fenelton, which is near Chicora.
Her sauce, formerly called The Good Stuff Sweet BBQ Sauce, was featured on Steve Harvey in January of 2013. The sauce name was changed last summer to Hickey Bottom Barbecue Sauce, after the name of her company.
“My husband I were hunting deer in Illinois. I got my deer and he didn’t and I was watching Steve Harvey Show in the camper,” she said, when a woman on the show called “the mystery millionaire” talked about how to grow a business.
“I emailed her and she emailed back and I didn’t know she was saving all my emails and sending them to the show,” McCrea said. “Out of a few hundred (people), she picked me and another lady, who made wooden beds for kids. They liked how we (corresponded with them) and our ideas.”
The show is taped in Chicago, which “was fun but scary, too,” McCrea said. “Everyone was so nice, it was unbelievable. They really made you feel welcome.”
She also noticed that sales went up a bit every time the show had reruns, she added.
McCrea started bottling her sauce in 2012 after making it for family functions for years. “Everyone said to (bottle) it and I did,” she said.
The signature sauce is sweet instead of spicy; without vinegar or smoky flavors, she said. “Some sauces are like gnawing on a block of wood.”
It can be used with meats, baked beans, dips, cottage cheese, mashed potatoes, macaroni-n-cheese, marinade and condiments.
In addition to the sweet sauce, McCrea now has a line with hot and honey barbecue sauces that debuted Feb. 20. The line also includes a smoky hot sauce and a grill and rub spice.
McCrea won’t reveal her blend of ingredients – however, her mother, Maryann Pranulis, works with her.
They made sauce out of McCrea’s certified kitchen, but the sauces are now being made at a production and bottling plant owned by Brooks House of Bar-B-Q in Oneonta, N.Y., which is primarily known for its 300-seat restaurant and catering business – and has its own lines of sauces and rubs.
Especially with a new line of sauces, “We couldn’t keep up. It took three to four hours to do 14 bottles,” McCrea said.
Brooks makes the sauces in addition to bottling and labeling it, she added.
“We signed papers that they couldn’t give (the recipe) to anyone else,” McCrea said. “I made it with them in their shop and they shipped a couple of samples and we went back and forth until they got it right.”
Mark Joseph Kelly Marketing also helped with sauce labels and getting McCrea’s business strategy up and running.
“Both businesses are very friendly and easy to work with,” she said.
Brooks will be featured in the book, “America’s Best BBQ,” by Ardie Davis & Paul, she noted.
McCrea hopes the new line will open up her clientele. She is now marketing the sauces with her mother to various stores. Last year, McCrea sold about 2,500 bottles of sauce, which she stores in her basement.
“It’s kind of hard on your own. I’d like to find a distributor,” she said, which would directly get the Hickey Bottom sauces from Brooks for distribution.
Locally the line can be found at Slippery Rock Giant Eagle and the Cheese House in New Wilmington. A number of stores in Butler County sell Hickey Bottom; a tavern in her hometown of Fenelton uses it on its wings and sells bottles on the side, McCrea added.
In addition to the many store samplings and festivals she attends, McCrea has sold her sauce for the past two years at Strawberry Days in Grove City.
“I like when people’s faces light up (tasting it),” she said. “I mostly like watching the kids’ faces,” McCrea added.
McCrea and her husband also own a mini-storage business that she manages. Bernard McCrea has an excavating business.
However, sauce has become McCrea’s full-time job. It all started when she was experimenting with flavors when she was 21.
“I was playing around one day because I didn’t like the stuff that was in the bottles,” she said. “I always added stuff to every one I opened up before.”
Visit www.hickeybottombbq.com or email McCrea at firstname.lastname@example.org
Published March 1, 2014, in Allied News. Pick up a copy at 201 A Erie St., Grove City.