Local sauce goes national

Andrea Rose
Tara Runkles and Ann Raresheid show off some of the many trophies their Bar-B-Que Beast sauce has won.

Nearly 20 years ago, when Ann Raresheid was stationed abroad with the U.S. Air Force in Stuttgart, Germany, she had hankering for a good, traditional barbecue dinner. But the barbecue sauce she found at the commissary just didn't please her palate, so she grabbed a variety of ingredients and made her own.

A few years later, after perfecting her own secret blend, she shared the sauce with a friend, Tara Runkles. "Tara is a huge foodie," Raresheid said. "She said, "this is the best sauce I've ever had.'"

Raresheid, of Waynesboro, didn't think much of the compliment at first. "I didn't take it seriously," she recalled. "To me, it was just something I put together when I wanted barbecue."

But Runkles, also of Waynesboro, persisted, persuading the budding barbecue chef to share her recipe with the world.

The next thing Raresheid knew, she had a business license and was selling barbecue dinners.

"We bought a concession trailer, LLC'd the business and set up in our parking spot selling pulled pork. Everyone who bought a sandwich wanted the sauce," Raresheid said.

What sets the sauce apart from other commercially-produced blends could be the ingredients.

"I don't use oils," Raresheid said. "We start every bottle with real onion and garlic — no powders — all fresh steamed. People with acid reflux have told us they have no problem with our sauce."

"When a sauce tastes good by itself, you can tell it's a good sauce," Runkles said.

The women decided they were on to something, so they took the sauce and had it tested to make sure it was "shelf stable."

Then it was on to finding someone to bottle it.

"The challenge was finding a small-batch bottling company. Most require a minimum of 250 gallons to bottle," Runkles recalled.

"We started at 30 gallons," Raresheid said.

Bottling is done in Romney, West Virginia, and either Raresheid or Runkles is on hand on bottling day. "Everything from start to finish is quality-controlled by us," Raresheid said.

Next came a name and labels.

"To me, everybody had really clever names," Raresheid said. "It's a sauce. You put it on an animal or beast. It's not meat-specific."

And so Bar-B-Que Beast was born.

Next came the logo and marketing materials. They worked with Chad Ely of C-Ely Signs and Graphics.

"It's a blob of meat made into a thing holding a sandwich," Runkles explained. "We call it, Feed Your Beast."

The next challenge for the women was marketing their product. "We've been told it's not a woman's business. You're not gonna go anywhere," Raresheid said.

But the duo persisted, entering sauce contests across the U.S.—and winning!

Their Bar-B-Que Beast sauce has won both judges' awards and people's choice awards in sauce competitions in Kansas City; North Carolina; Illinois; and the Gettysburg North vs. South BBQ event.

"The people's choice are always our favorite awards because people said they loved it," Raresheid said.

Their sauce is used at B&T's Unique Bar and Grill in Blue Ridge Summit and at a restaurant in Las Vegas, Nevada. "They sell 16,000 wings a year with our sauce," Raresheid said.

They are hoping to get Bar-B-Que Beast in other restaurants and grocery stores.

For now, though, the women will continue to do what they do with the Beast.

"This business doesn't support us. We have real jobs," said Runkles, who teaches elementary physical education in Washington County. Raresheid works at a local bank.

But they love every minute of the sauce business.

"This is fun. I love what I do," Raresheid said.