By Claire Walla
Invoking the cool, laid-back aura of the film to which its amber-colored label pays homage, “Pete’s Endless Summer” line of sauces and rubs suggests the idea that barbeque is just as satisfying as surf.
“Some of the best times and memories have happened during the summer and often involved a great barbecue or dinner,” Pete Ambrose explains on the company’s website. A native of the East End, he goes on to suggest that much of the flavors he’s now captured in bottles and jars are reminiscent of the times he spent barbecuing right here on the beach (mentioning Napeague by name). But they’re also concoctions he’s been perfecting over the years through the endless number of hours Ambrose himself has spent in the kitchen.
Having catered large events through The Seafood Shop in Wainscott for the past 20 years, Ambrose said creating a line of sauces and rubs has been in the back of his mind for a long time.
“It’s been a desire of mine for about 10 to 15 years,” Ambrose explained in an interview. “It’s finally become a reality.”
The tri-colored label, featuring a man at the grill in black silhouette, graces containers filled with such specialty condiments as Apricot Chipotle Barbecue Sauce, Ginger Teriyaki Marinade, Wasabi Aioli, Seasoning Sea Salt, the über-popular Rib Ticklin’ Rub and Ambrose’s signature Endless Summer Rub.
“All good rubs have a lot of the same basings: brown sugar, paprika, celery root,” Ambrose explained; and Pete’s Endless summer is no different. However, each item in the East End-inspired line of rubs and sauces does have at least one key ingredient that separates it from your run-of-the-mill condiment. For example, Ambrose pointed to his Apricot Chipotle BBQ Sauce: “Apricot is something people wouldn’t necessarily use as a sweetener.”
The flavors are, in part, a byproduct of the palette Ambrose has developed over the years, harking back to his boyhood. (Ambrose actually began working at the Seafood Shop in Wainscott at the age of 14.)
“I think anyone who works for me has brought something to the table,” Ambrose said of the flavors he’s created. “A lot of my staff comes from Mexico and other parts of South America,” he said, which has influenced Ambrose to use such tangy spices as chimichurri and hot peppers.
Ambrose said the line has found much success; he typically has about 40 cases of each item on order every four weeks. “We sell about 80 to 100 cases of barbecue sauce each summer,” he added, explaining that the apricot chipotle sauce has been a big hit. But the road to getting these recipes “shelf stable,” as Ambrose put it, wasn’t exactly quick and easy.
“It’s taken a while to get this going,” Ambrose explained. He set to work building a line of sauces and rubs about eight or nine years ago with a business partner. However, the partnership dissolved, and it was about five years before Ambrose set out to get the elements of the project in order once more. Not wanting to see the dream fade away, Ambrose hired a consultant to help get his business plan in order.
“We always had a great product, we just needed the help getting it out,” he said.
In the end, instead of paying to get his line of products into local stores and supermarkets, Ambrose said he went with Plan B: farmers’ markets. Much to his pleasant surprise, Ambrose said the tactic proved fruitful.
“Retail rent is very expensive in the Hamptons,” which essentially nixed the idea of selling the sauces and rubs on supermarket shelves, he said. Plus, “it’s hard to test a product on someone else’s shelf.”
So he took his line to the weekly farmers’ markets in Amagansett, East Hampton and Montauk.
“The markets are very low-key and relaxed,” he explained. “You’re also face-to-face with your customers… and people can be very chatty.”
Not only have farmers’ markets given Ambrose an opportunity to fully describe his product — even tempt hungry shoppers with free samples — but he’s been able to get customer feedback.
“You can’t monitor [your product at] retail shops that way,” he said.
Word of mouth has already brought orders from New Jersey and Connecticut; Ambrose also said he’s hoping to expand the company’s reach geographically and get the products into markets in Manhattan and Brooklyn beginning this fall. Not to mention making them available for purchase online, which Ambrose hopes to achieve in the coming months.