Nuts about sauces

What do squirrels have to do with starting a business?


Bruce Cousineau’s special sauce, which he has heard described as “marinara meets Mexico,” was first created because he didn’t want to throw away extra árbol peppers during the heights of the COVID pandemic.

“I had made tacos al pastor and had leftover peppers and said ‘What am I going to do with all of these dried peppers except throw them away?’” Cousineau said. “And on the first shot, I made a sauce, wrote it down, and basically that’s history.”

Following that meal, he made more sauce to give to friends, who encouraged him to start selling the sauce. Cousineau, who had recently lost his job, decided to give it a go.

He and his wife Patti- Warwick Public Schools’ director of elementary education- officially incorporated Blind Squirrel Sauces in November of 2022, and have run it ever since.

The company gets its name from the phrase “Even a blind squirrel can find a nut.” Bruce said that making the original sauce on a whim makes him the blind squirrel in the business’s title.

“Before we even went into production, we thought about it, and I was thinking about the name of Blind Squirrel Sauces just because of that,” Bruce said. “And lo and behold, the domain was available [to buy]. So I said, why not grab it?”

A self-described experimenter in the kitchen, Bruce still does some work where it all began when developing a new sauce. Blind Squirrel Sauces currently has two main products- their original sauce, called the ArBol BQ sauce, and a milder sauce, the Piña.

For manufacturing and distribution, the Cousineaus work with Onofrio’s Ultimate Foods in New Haven, Conn., that produce and test their sauces. Bruce is there throughout the process as well, as according to him, he wants to personally make sure the sauce tastes how it should.

Bruce can’t believe he’s become the co-creator of a sauce-making company, saying that he can’t even follow a recipe. Still, though the career change- he worked in IT before getting laid off during the pandemic, and still does freelance IT work- is one that he’s happy with.

“I’m not going to bed as a millionaire, but I’ve got a few more stories than most,” Bruce said.

Blind Squirrel Sauces’ products can be found in different markets throughout Southern New England. In Warwick, they can be found at Sandy Lane Meat Market for $8.99- something that Bruce, who grew up in Warwick, described as a “full-circle moment.”

Bruce and Patti said that the community of small business owners that they had found through these markets was a special one, and the advice they have received has helped Blind Squirrel Sauces grow.

“Every place we’ve gone to, once we’ve gotten in, we’ve been welcomed with open arms,” Bruce said. “It is an amazing community of craftspeople, artisans, farmers, who care as much about everybody else that they’re selling their wares with as much as what they’re trying to do.”

Recently, Blind Squirrel Sauces made a donation of $225 to the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RISPCA). Bruce said that the idea of donating to the RISPCA started off as a joke due to their mascot being a squirrel, but turned serious due to their love of rescue animals- the Cousineaus have two rescue dogs themselves.

“It’s not like we have a lot going, but hey, every little bit can help,” Bruce said. “I’d rather see someone rescue an animal than to go to a breeder and get a pedigree. There’s so many dogs that need homes.”

In 2024, Blind Squirrel Sauces is planning on continuing to put their sauces on more store shelves. The Cousineaus are also looking at creating a third sauce to add to their lineup- the “Diablo” sauce, a spicier version of the ArBol BQ, will be hitting shelves in the spring.

“We wanted to round out having the mild, medium, hot sauces,” Patti said. “It’ll include more of the ancho and árbol peppers.”

The sauces  have been well-received, with Patti saying that one consumer, a New Zealander in town for a wedding, loved the sauce enough that they brought some jars back to New Zealand.

What Bruce and Patti find so special about their sauces, though, are their flavors, which they say are unique enough that they don’t have any direct competitors- which is just how they want it. Through the struggles of operating a small business- while, for Patti, devoting 60 hours per week to her other job, and for Bruce, freelancing for groups such as the Warwick School Committee- the Cousineaus said that they’ve enjoyed working with each other.

“We’ve been married for 36 years, so we’re a team, in business and in life,” Patti said.

sauce, squirrel


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