Gering man creates a tasty barbecue sauce for home-based business

Jesse Fitzke holds a mason jar full of barbecue sauce on Wednesday. Fitzke uses his mom's recipe to create the sauce.

When he was a kid, Jesse Fitzke joked with his mother that one day, he’d make millions with her barbecue sauce recipe. Now, the sauce can be found at a number of locations throughout the state.

Fitzke, of Gering, hates ketchup. As a child, his mom would make him barbecue sauce from a recipe of her mother’s that she modified.

“I guess I was the person who used the barbecue sauce in the family the most,” Fitzke said. “Then after college, I’d make it myself.”

He’d give jars of the sauce, which has a sweet and smokey flavor, to his friends. They’d tell him how good it was, but he hadn’t seriously considered selling it.

When Fitzke got married, his wife, Danielle, began telling him what his friends had told him for years: Sell the sauce.

“My wife convinced me to do the Oregon Trail Craft Fair in 2017,” Fitzke said. “I took about 70 jars and I sold them all in three hours. They just sold like crazy. It was kind of an “aha moment.” From there, I realized I just needed to do it.”

The weekend of the solar eclipse, the Fitzkes took the sauce to the farmers market at the Plaza, and again the sauce sold well.

“Along the way, I found out all of the licenses and regulations behind something like this,” Fitzke said.

He went through the process of getting licensed and by April 2018, he was ready to go.

Fitzke is currently building a commercial kitchen in his basement, but in the meantime, he uses the facilities at the Guadalupe Center.

His mother’s recipe hasn’t been modified, beyond being made more efficient so Fitzke can produce large batches quickly.

“I can make about 40 jars in an hour and a half,” Fitzke said. “That is probably four and a half actual gallons of barbecue sauce.”

He packages the sauce in mason jars and slaps a label on it that Danielle designed before taking it to craft fairs, farmers markets and other vendor events in the area, where he serves up samples.

“I’ve sold close to 2,500 jars,” Fitzke said. He’s shipped products as far as New Jersey and California.

Flyover Brewery in Scottsbluff uses the sauce in some of it’s recipes.

Additionally, his sauce can be found at Main Street Market as well as in stores in Imperial, Lincoln, Holyoke, Colorado and Wray, Colorado. Jars can also be purchased by contacting Fitzke at Fitzkebbq@gmail.com or liking the Fitzke BBQ Facebook page.

“My summer job is a lot of time standing in the kitchen making this,” said Fitzke, a teacher at Scottsbluff High School.

Fitzke’s mom has been supportive of his endeavor. Before he started selling the sauce, he checked with her to see if it was OK.

“She said, ‘Absolutely, go for it,’” Fitzke said. “She loves it.”

Fitzke said his three children and his wife have been a huge help with the business.

“My wife helps me tremendously,” he said. “She is the one who has done the marketing. It’s probably because of her that this has even happened. She’s the one who forced my hand and I’m really grateful for that.”

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Kamie Stephen is a reporter with the Star-Herald. She can be reached at 308-632-9041 or via email at kamie.stephen@starherald.com.

Kamie Stephen is a reporter with the Star-Herald. She can be reached at 308-632-9041 or via email at kamie.stephen@starherald.com.

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