Cuzzy's in the News
Hey, Cuzzy, Try This Sauce
Key West Citizen
July 30, 2005
Bruce Wood, a fifth-generation "Conch" from the Florida Keys, thinks Cuzzy's Special Sauce, a secret family recipe, is ready for the big time – but only because momma approved.
"She calls all the shots," Wood said Friday, after he and Doug Treadway, one of his partners, signed an agreement with Albertson's earlier in the week to sell the sauce in the chain's grocery stores in Pensacola, Tallahassee and the Keys.
Wood has been making the sauce for years and serving it to friends. It goes on seafood, chicken and other meats and can even be used in cole slaw, Wood said.
Wood said all the ingredients are "readily available" in Key West, but he won't disclose the recipe, which includes lime, horseradish powder, onion, oil, eggs, mustard and spices.
A 12-ounce bottle costs from $3.99 to $6.99, depending on where you buy it, Treadway said. The sauce has a tangy, sweet-and-sour taste, he said.
His mother, Shirley Wood, developed the recipe after her father, Bernie Pappy, a longtime political power in the Keys and a state representative for 28 years, created a similar mixture to go with stone crabs.
Wood said his mother ! created the current version of the sauce in the early 1970s because "we were tired of eating (stone crabs) with butter."
The sauce is called "Cuzzy's" because Key West natives often greet each other by saying "Hey, Cuzzy" - short for "cousin," Wood said.
Treadway, a longtime friend of Wood's and partner in the sauce venture, said the two have been thinking about selling the sauce for a couple of years, but things really got rolling this spring.
"We found a manufacturer in South Florida, but they were not able to match what we wanted to do," Treadway said.
Wood has a more succinct explanation: "Momma didn't like it."
That looms large, because momma's name is on the bottle, Wood said, in the phrase "Momma's Best from Key West."
But Wood and Treadway found Southern Classics Products, a prepared-foods company in Alabama, and they "got it right," Wood said.
At about the same time, Wood asked Chris Noble, a friend and store director at Al! bertson's on Thomasville Road, if he could place some of the sauce in the store in exchange for free advertising at a Springtime Tallahassee booth.
"We had to have someplace for people to go taste it," Wood said.
Noble agreed, and the unconventional product launch was under way. Cuzzy's soon was in all four Albertson's stores in Tallahassee.
"We put it in the store right after Springtime Tallahassee," Noble said, "and it did very well."
"It's amazing," Noble, a 14-year Albertson's employee, said of the response. "We definitely won't stop selling it."
Noble also helped arrange a meeting for Wood and Treadway with Janice Goline, grocery category lead manager for Albertson's Florida stores.
"We're going to put it in on a trial basis in Pensacola, Tallahassee and Key West," Goline said. "We have the (sauce) going in for two months and, at that time, we will evaluate."
If sales are good, the sauce will be moved to all 105 Albertson's stores in Florida, she said.
The success of local or regional sauces! and food items doesn't surprise Bill "Sauce Boss" Wharton, a Jefferson County musician who has marketed blues and his pepper sauces since the late 1980s.
"The whole thing with the sauce is, bigger is not necessarily better," Wharton said. The market is there, he said, because of "people who really want to taste something different."
Wharton sells three kinds of sauces in Tallahassee and across Florida.
Wood and Treadway said because their sauce sells itself, they really didn't have to map out a strategic marketing campaign.
They point to Lee Underwood, another partner and a Jacksonville developer, who insisted the sauce go to commercial distribution after Wood made some for Underwood last fall.
"He (Underwood) wanted to know where he could get the sauce," Treadway said. When he found out the sauce was not for sale because Wood was the only one making it, Underwood pushed for a larger operation.
Patrons at the Old Town Cafe on Timberlane ! Road can taste the sauce with onion rings or crab claws, said restaura nt manager Ashley Solberger.
"It's just great," she said. "The best way I can describe it is tangy, like a honey-mustard sauce - but better."
Wood said a second type of sauce, Cuzzy's Cajun Sauce, also will be available in Albertson's stores, and a third type is in the testing stage.
If the sauce catches on, Wood may have the perfect pitch man for the product because of a longtime family friend who worked for Wood's father, Norman Woods, before the friend's music career took off, much to the delight of parrot-heads everywhere.
"Jimmy Buffett worked for my dad when he got to the Keys in the late '60s," Wood said.
"He ate at our house a lot and has stayed in touch with us. He missed my Dad's 70th birthday recently and called to talk to him after he (Buffett) got back into town."
But Wood knows even if Buffett considered pushing the product, there would be at least one hurdle - momma would have to approve.
From left: Doug Treadway and Bruce "Cuzzy" Wood.