Stadium Salsa becomes ballpark’s exclusive chip condimentWritten by Brandi Barhite | Community Ombudsman | firstname.lastname@example.org
Greg Shepherd gets a kick out of watching baseball fans eat his salsa.
Last season, Stadium Salsa was only used in the Taco Hut and the suites at Fifth Third Field. The chips, which Stadium Salsa LLC provides but doesn’t make, were used throughout the whole stadium.
It was so exciting for Shepherd that he and his wife, Heather, came to the games to watch people eat chips and salsa.
“That is cool,” he said.
But this year it’s going to be hot.
Stadium Salsa will be the exclusive salsa for the Toledo Mud Hens. The medium salsa will be used throughout.
“It has just enough kick,” Shepherd said of appealing to the masses.
“It was spicy, but not overpowering,” said Craig Nelson, general manager of food and beverage for the Mud Hens.
A ripe idea
The salsa-making began in 2002 when his mother-in-law bought them tomato plants.
Shepherd and his wife decided to make their own salsa with the homegrown tomatoes. It seemed like whenever they bought salsa, it was too chunky or too runny, he said.
The first batch his wife mixed up wasn’t quite right so Shepherd added some spices.
Over time, they tweaked it and took it to tailgate parties for people to sample.
When partygoers started to say, “What store can I buy this at?” they knew it was time to put the preservative-free salsa on the shelf.
Mother-in-law Judy Reynolds still can’t believe her tomato plants led to all of this.
“I always have had tomato plants because I can my own tomatoes. I don’t like store-bought, and I told them if you can do fresh, do fresh. So I bought a couple of extra when I bought mine, and it just took off from there,” Reynolds said.
Dipping into the market
Stadium Salsa first hit local stores in 2006 and is now in Churchill’s (Central Avenue only), Bassett’s, 5-Star markets and Monnette’s Produce Market, among others. In April, Stadium Salsa products will be in all Anderson stores, including in Columbus.
“People come here just for Stadium Salsa absolutely, said Marc Monnette, owner of Monnette’s Produce Market on Glendale Avenue and the store on Alexis Road in Sylvania.
“Honestly, I get one person each month who wants their salsa to be sold,” Monnette said.
“Nine times out of 10, it doesn’t taste good so I won’t let it in my store.”
Stadium Salsa was an exception.
“His salsa is the one I take home … it is a very addicting salsa. It is one of the salsas where you eat more salsa than chips.”
The first jars of the salsa were made by Shepherd, his wife and their family and friends at Agriculture Incubator on state Route 582.
“It was all hands on deck,” Shepherd said.
When the orders grew, Shepherd stepped back and moved the operation to Celina, Ohio.
Depending on orders, several thousands of pounds of salsa is made per order.
“We still use locally grown tomatoes, which we purchase from well-known Hirzel,” Shepherd said.
Eventually, Shepherd could see himself giving up his day job to devote himself entirely to the salsa business. He works as a clinical manager at a cardiovascular biology company, while his wife stays home with their three children.
Shepherd has experience owning and operating other businesses, including a grocery store, and has a degree in marketing from UT. The Bowling Green resident graduated from Cardinal Stritch in 1986, and has always loved salsa. He’s not even tired of it yet.
Shepherd is so known for salsa it is assumed he should bring it to every party. If he doesn’t, he has to go out and buy some.
“A few people think we have it stockpiled in our garage, which we don’t,” Shepherd said, laughing.
Stadium Salsa LLC also makes Stadium Relish, which will debut at the Mud Hens this year on top of the Stadium Salsa Dog.
Stadium Salsa also has a new mexicali dip, which is a mix of salsa with sour cream. It’s not sold inside Fifth Third Field, but it is in stores.
“I didn’t set out to make salsa … it’s a passion I just fell onto,” Shepherd said.