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Timonium man aims to be the boss of barbecue sauce

Most Thursdays from late morning to mid-afternoon, you will find Adam Rosenblatt's parents, Ron and Jodi, manning a barbecue sauce booth at the Towson Farmers Market.

But you might have a more difficult time finding Rosenblatt at the downtown market, except on his lunch hour. The Timonium resident, 33, is a busy man these days.

Rosenblatt is a litigation attorney for Baltimore County — assistant to the director of permits. He and his wife, Jana, a physical therapist at Greater Baltimore Medical Center, had their second child, Logan, last month, joining 2-year-old Cale.

As if that wasn't enough, Rosenblatt and his business partner, T. Rowe Price's Don Fisher, 36, also of Timonium, have started the Baltimore Barbecue Co., making two kinds of "Baltimore-style" barbecue sauce, original and a "Chesapeake" version with a touch of Old Bay seasoning, as well as several rubs.

In a taste of early success, they are selling the sauces at 15 area stores, including Whole Foods in Mount Washington and Graul's in Mays Chapel, and at the farmers' market on Allegheny Avenue.

They grilled with their sauces Aug. 8 and 9 at the Maryland State BBQ Bash in Belair, as co-sponsors and competitors. They will be at Waverly Main Street's Beats and Eats Festival on Oct. 11.

Luckily for Rosenblatt, president and CEO of the company, he has help from his parents.

"We're willing participants, as long as it doesn't interfere with our golf games," said Ron Rosenblatt, 62, retired owner of an advertising firm, as he and Jodi, 63, put out samples at the market July 31. They also do demonstrations at local stores and even make deliveries.

He said they'll do "whatever's necessary," for their son. "He doesn't have a lot of time."

Wearing a blue striped shirt, red tie, black pants and black dress shoes, Adam Rosenblatt found the time to walk over to the market from work July 31. Throwing on a red apron with his company's name on it (and Cale's hand prints imprinted on the bottom), he talked excitedly of how he came to make his own barbecue sauces and what the future may hold for the budding business.

"Our goal is putting Baltimore Barbecue Co. on the map," he said. He said he is especially proud of his Chesapeake sauce, which includes Domino's sugar and well as Old Bay. He said it's the only barbecue sauce he knows of that uses all Maryland ingredients, and that it's good with pulled pork, chicken and ribs, as well as seafood.

It's also good for a store such as Whole Foods, because it has no preservatives, he said.

"That's kind of my baby," he said. "There's no (other barbecue sauce) in the grocery stores that (Marylanders) can call our own."

The barbecue bug bit Rosenblatt early, as a student at Wake Forest University.

"Barbecue is pretty much a way of life down there," he said.

Rosenblatt also gained from his father a love of cooking and a sense of how to run and promote a small business. But after years of making his own bottles of homemade sauce for his own personal use, it wasn't until February that he and Fisher incorporated as a company, and not until May that they made their first batch of sauce. Now, using Mama Vida, a Randallstown company that makes, packs and labels gourmet foods, they're making a go of it.

"We're about 8-10 weeks into existence and we have sold over 3,000 (18-ounce) bottles," he said.

At the Whole Foods store in the Mount Washington Mill shopping center, Rosenblatt's sauces are flying off the shelves, thanks partly to a promotion in which grocery manager and buyer Walter Castro authorized an off-shelf display in front of the meat section, while the marketing department did a "Whole Story" write-up for shoppers to read.

"It's really good," Castro said. "I was kind of impressed the way they were selling in the store."

As the business grows, Rosenblatt is projecting sales of $40,000 to $50,000 in their first year, and he is looking to expand their products.

"We'd like to have marinades and spice rubs, hot sauces, salad dressings and Bloody Mary mixes," he said. "We have so many ideas that I feel like we're just scratching the surface."

He said he has been talking to Union Craft Brewing Co., in Woodberry, about making a beer-based barbecue sauce.

Early reviews from the farmers' market were good July 31.

"It was excellent," said Sunshine Claude, of Waverly, after trying the Chesapeake sauce.

"Really good," said Ruut Demeo, of Towson, with her two young children in tow. "I'm thinking we might get the original."

Rosenblatt admits that he doesn't make his own sauce at home anymore, because the Mama Vida's approximation of his sauces suffices.

"It's so close to what I'm making," he said. And he added with a grin, "It's fun to open your own bottle of sauce."

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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