Duluth couple sells own line of barbecue sauce

If you're going into Jim and Joyce Arnett's kitchen, you have to wear a hairnet. That's not their rule, it's the Georgia Department of Agriculture's.

"You can keep it as a souvenir if you want," Jim Arnett said, an ever-present Cheshire grin on his face.

In the space that used to house the Arnetts' cars, a mini-manufacturing plant is set up. Each day, bottles of Smack Yo Mama barbecue sauce are cooked up and shipped out of the Arnetts' Duluth home.

To keep production up to the average of about four batches, or 80 gallons, of sauce a day, Jim Arnett's kitchen is stocked with a lot of supplies. Gallon buckets dot the kitchen and hold large amounts of ingredients - primarily ketchup, mustard and vinegar. A mega-sized bag of brown sugar sits beside a huge steam kettle, which can hold about 20 gallons of his fiery sauce.

Surveying the sauce-production scene, one question comes to mind: How, exactly, does he acquire such industrial-sized amounts of ingredients?

"Let's just say, I have suppliers," he said. "I can't say more than that because my competition may be reading this."

Jim Arnett had been dappling in making barbecue sauce for years, but it wasn't until a 1998 church fundraiser that he started naming and distributing the product on a larger scale.

"We sterilized old Pepsi and Coke bottles, and poured the sauce into that," Joyce Arnett said. "We used anything we could find to put the sauce in. And every batch we made, it sold. Oh, it was so sticky. My pots were all just so sticky."

Following Arnett's initial selling success, the couple realized they were sitting on a winning recipe and turned their focus to producing Smack Yo Mama sauces full-time.

To date, there are seven sauce varieties. Jim's favorite is the smoky, mildly spicy Bad to the Bone, which is also the best-seller. Joyce prefers her sauce to have a little more kick and opts for the Widowmaker, which is similar to Bad to the Bone but has a mixture of habanero peppers.

"I like my sauce with a bit of bite," she said. "We have a sauce for every taste."

The other sauce flavors are NuKahuna, a mild pineapple and cream of coconut sauce; Georgia Gold, a sweet and tangy honey-mustard vinegar sauce; Dragon's Breath, a spicy version of Georgia Gold; Death Wish, a hotter and less sweet version of Widowmaker; and Toxic Waste, which is "pure, brutal heat," Jim Arnett said.

Also sold under the Smack Yo Mama line is a variety of meat rubs, called Wib Wub spices, for which customers have Joyce to thank.

"It's sounds kind of silly now, the name Wib Wub, but it was really funny when we came up with it," Joyce Arnett said. "Rib rub, Wib Wub. It's funny the first time you say it."

If you ask Jim Arnett for the recipe for his sauce, he's quick to share the ingredients. In fact, they are all listed on the label.

"I'm more than happy to tell them what all is in my sauce," he said. "It's just up to you to figure out how much of each thing to put in the sauce."

However, there is one secret ingredient to his creation that isn't on the label. It isn't even in the sauce.

"It's the name," he said. "That's the big secret. That, and magic. I was born with an extra helping of the funny gene. Call it designer genes, if you will. That's where the name came from, I guess. But, I don't recommend actually smacking your mama."

Selling the sauce at craft fairs and festivals, the Arnetts keep a full schedule. So far, they've shipped the sauce all over North America, from the Southeast to Indiana and Canada. Their sauces have even been shipped to troops in Iraq.

Smack Yo Mama sauce is also sold online, at www.smackyomama.com.