Dr. Ashburn’s Pepper Emporium, located at 3702 South La Fountain Boulevard, sells an astonishing number of hot sauces but don’t be fooled by the logo- not everything is a tomato based hot sauce or mouth numbingly spicy. Also offered are jams, jellies, mustards, snack foods, mixes, seasonings and more. Most have a connection to peppers, but not all. To make the cut, items must be a bit out of the ordinary, not available within 30 miles and often have a story behind them.
Fred Schorm’s path to becoming the proprietor of Dr. Ashburn’s Pepper Emporium began when he was a child and continued into adulthood. As an adolescent he enjoyed munching on hot peppers. The habit continued while he served as an electronic cryptologist in the Air Force and graduated from Purdue University. In recent years he has coached both boys and girls high school swim teams and is currently working at Chrysler Corporation.
“I grew up thinking I’d either farm or own a hot sauce business,” Schorm says. “Later I thought one or the other would be a great after retirement job. I was fascinated when I watched a PBS documentary, “Grown in the Desert”. It showed how peppers are grown and processed. The meat comes off and it is ground into powder. The seeds are sold for planting and the juice is used for sauces. Then when I was in Florida, I saw a hot sauce business.”
Schorm’s plans to retail hot pepper related goods were spurred on by his mother, Maggie Caldwell, who passed on in April of 2020. When she fell ill, she gave the advice to enjoy life in the present and not wait to go after experiences or try new things. She was able to witness the beginnings of the business.
“The last three months of my mom’s life were during COVID-19. The blessing in that was that everyone was at home and our family could spend time with her. I had inventory shipped to her house and she sampled some of the products,” Schorm says.
These days, Dr. Ashburn’s Pepper Emporium is settling into its second location which it moved into in early June. Schorm’s sister, Sabrina Schorm, runs another Dr. Ashburn’s Pepper Emporium on the square in Greensburg, Indiana. The inventory is constantly changing as products sell out and new ones take their place. Schorm discovers items to carry through his travels and by talking to customers.
“I have five different types of customers. Some don’t care about the taste; they just want hot. For others, it must taste good and be hot. There are hot sauce bottle collectors and people who are looking for novelty gifts. Sometimes they are searching for a certain brand. For every 10 referrals, customers get $10 off a purchase,” Schorm says.
When asked what his favorite item was, Schorm declined to give an answer saying it was hard to pick just one out. However, he did mention some he especially enjoyed selling. Schorm’s picks ranged from sweet to savory and included products with a sense of humor plus the spirit of giving back.
The General’s Hot Sauces come in a grenade shaped containers and the store sells several varieties. They also produce a maple syrup called Mayhem Hot. Schorm discovered the line when a customer asked him if he had heard of the company which donates a percentage of profits to charities benefitting military families.
The shop recently added products from Cherry Republic, a catalog and online retailer with brick-and-mortar stores in Michigan. Schorm forged a partnership to sell the company’s spicier offerings. He particularly likes the cherry hot sauce, cherry salsa, hot trail mix and sausage.
Sweet stuff is sold as well. For the kids, he stocks cotton candy with a hint of a kick. Jellies and jams are popular. Varieties include hot pepper bacon and blueberry bourbon pepper.
In the future, Schorm hopes that Dr. Ashburn’s Pepper Emporium will sponsor charity events. Possibilities are chili cookoffs or golf outings. Ideas include tasting challenges between local town officials.
Schorm and his wife, Amy, often go live on the store’s Facebook page. They share new product debuts and ideas for using them. Amy, who has hosted live events for several years as a Mary Kay representative, laughs because she is now being recognized around town as ‘the pepper lady.’ The Schorm’s also post to promote other Kokomo businesses and events.
“There is no other place like this in Central Indiana. We are so glad we have a place like this. It is great to talk to the customers. We like to find out how they heard about us, and we like to get ideas from them,” Schorm says.
Dr. Ashburn’s Pepper Emporium is located at 3702 South LaFountain Boulevard in Kokomo.
You can reach them at 765-432-3527, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting drashburns.com.
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