By Susan Marquez
If you’re looking for a barbecue sauce with a funky history, look no further than Bootsie’s Delta Funk BBQ Sauce. Pete Grumbles runs the distribution operation from the funky worldwide headquarters in Pope, Mississippi. He says he slid into the barbecue game in a roundabout way.
Raised in Arizona, Pete got a job in Arkansas after college. He moved to Mississippi from Little Rock in 2011. “We have family from Mississippi,” he explains.
Soon after arriving in the Magnolia State, Pete met Adrian Boyd, and the two became business partners. They started as a catering company. The sauces were so popular people were asking if they could buy them. They kept the name, Bootsie’s, and let people know they were all about southern funk!
“Adrian had the recipe,” says Pete. “It dates back to the 1920s. His people were sharecroppers who left Mississippi during the great migration to Chicago. The recipe was passed down through generations. Adrian moved back to Mississippi from Chicago after he retired from the Navy.”
For eight months, the duo worked to make the barbecue sauce recipes something that could be mass-produced. “We were determined to keep as close as possible to the original recipes. They didn’t have preservatives in the 1920s, so we don’t use preservatives today. We source all of our ingredients as local as possible, and as natural as possible.” Pete estimates that 90 percent of the ingredients used to make the sauces are sourced from either Mississippi or the South. “We went to local farmers markets and talked to the growers about what we were looking for.”
Right out of the gate, the funky sauces were a hit. The company has been in business coming up on six years, and already they have won numerous awards, including the Delta Regional Authority Entrepreneur Fellow in 2017, Silver Medal Scovie award for best fruit barbecue sauce in 2018, Yahoo’s Lifestyles Must-Have Sauces of the Summer for Bootsie’s Hi-Tone White BBQ sauce in 2019, and a Bronze Medal Scovie award this year for the best mustard barbecue sauce with their Pineapple Xpress sauce.
That’s not bad for a kid who aspired to be a saucier after watching a movie with his dad. “We watched Apocalypse Now, and one of the characters was a saucier from New Orleans. I had never heard of such a thing but soon became obsessed with sauces,” says Pete. Putting himself through college working at Outback Steakhouse gave Pete a strong education in food. He became even more obsessed with sauces, an obsession that continues today.
“Every time we develop a new product, I take it to local chefs to try. I want their feedback; then I make adjustments.” There are currently eight products in the Bootsie’s product line. “We are currently working on developing hot sauces.”
Bootsie’s is a small manufacturer with big dreams. “We use only organic ingredients, but we are not highfalutin,” laughs Pete. “We just want to be true to our roots.” Everything is hot cooked in a kettle. “That first taste should be as smooth as listening to Sly and the Family Stone,” says Pete. “We use local honey that dissolves as it goes down. You should taste layer by layer, then get that back heat.”
Bootsie’s products are sold throughout the state as well as on the company’s website. The barbecue sauces in the Bootsie’s product line include Pineapple Xpress, Sweet n’ Smoky, Hot as Funk, Hi-Tone White and summer peach. They also carry a line of rubs which include All-Purpose Spice n/ Rub, Sweet Heat Funk and Whiskey Lemon Fusion Funk.