Six years ago, Perla and Bill Pearce packed up their life in Tuscon, Arizona, and moved north to Bend, Oregon. But they weren't ready to leave the flavor of the southwest behind—and brought along with them their gourmet salsa company.
With its now-somewhat geographically askew name, the Southwest Salsa Co. was created when the founders became exasperated with seeing the same old salsa each time they went to the grocery store.
"You know the names, the [companies] that sell so many other products that they forgot to keep the salsa authentic, genuine and worthy for your family and friends," says co-founder Perla. With each grocery salsa looking and tasting the same, Perla and Bill set out to create their authentic homestyle salsa, using fresh, local produce, and only natural preservatives.
With its close proximity to the border, Arizona isn't short on Mexican-style cuisine or salsa. But moving to Bend came with some new challenges, and opportunities—for starters, an untapped market and a new client base that may not yet understand that salsa isn't just for tacos and burritos.
"Salsa is a condiment that goes with just about everything," explains Perla. "From our morning eggs to sandwiches, wraps, salads; on burgers and steaks."
Currently, Bill and Perla have eight flavors, ranging from the mild Fire Roasted Mango for the fruit enthusiast, to the Hot Holy Moly for those "local pepperheads."
Each consumer, says Perla, has his or her own heat index and flavor profile, but for an all-around fresh flavor they recommended Liam's Gringo Salsa, made with cilantro and real lime juice.
"A mild-medium, fresh-tasting salsa, like a Pico de Gallo," Perla says of Liam's Gringo, which has won a mantle full of awards, including first place at the La Pine Fall Festival in 2012. This go-with-everything salsa has a smooth restaurant-style texture and strong citrus undertones. However, for a mild-medium, it still packs a punch. Southwest Salsa Co. doesn't water down its open flame-roasted pepper flavors, leaving its salsas spicier than the usual fare.
But with that extra spice also comes more flavor.
Southwest Salsa Co. is sold at a variety of locations in Bend including Central Oregon Locavore, Newport Avenue Market, seasonal farmers' markets, and on tacos at JC's Bar & Grill.