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PALM LATITUDES

BOTTOM LINE : On the Sauce

June 25, 1995|R. Daniel Foster

Over the years, David Hunt has become something of a fixture on the Venice boardwalk, peddling Louisiana hot links smothered in the all-natural, salt-free barbecue sauce that is based on his great-grandfather's recipe.

But he didn't exactly plan to go into the sauce business. Hunt was working as Ben Vereen's road manager, but he lost that job in 1981. Six years and a few odd jobs later, he launched his boardwalk venture, brewing the sauce in a friend's 80-quart vat and bottling and distributing it himself. By 1989, he had found a bottler and distributor, and with the help of Venice boardwalk artists, who designed a label, and some investment capital from local minority leaders, Hunt, 53, was in business.

There were some tough times--he lost his home in 1992, and these days he's sleeping on a friend's living room floor in Venice. But he's still selling the sauce--and not just to pedestrians and tourists. He now sells 800 cases a year of Pappy 'N' Son's World Famous Original Barbeque Sauce to Vons, Pavilions and markets in Marina del Rey, among other venues. All told, 125 California stores carry Pappy's, and the sauce has just hit Las Vegas and Yosemite National Park. "I've just started now to make money, but we take it and reinvest it in the product," says Hunt, who drives his 1972 dune buggy to food trade shows and does demos at markets across the state. For authenticity, and a touch of show biz, he dresses in his great-grandfather's mid-1800s infantry scout outfit.

He hopes the success of his fledgling business will be an example to others. "It puts incentives back into the community," he says. "That's what Pappy's is all about."

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