Dr. V & G’s Sauce Shack adds flavor to downtown Kent.


The wall of hot sauce at Dr. V & G’s Sauce Shack in downtown Kent’s Acorn Alley on Sunday, June 26, 2016.

Cameron Gorman

Dr. V & G’s Sauce Shack in Acorn Alley adds a bit of spice to downtown Kent.

The shop, which carries a range of hot sauces, opened in April under the ownership of Kent State professorsAnthony Vander Horst and Greg Gibson—the two doctors for which it’s named.

Its conception in Kent stemmed from another Sauce Shack in Florida, which still operates today, that Horst visited.

“(Horst) comes up with these great ideas and I usually say no on my end to participate,” Gibson said. “(But) on this one, I couldn’t hold back.”

To Gibson, Kent has been the perfect home for the second Sauce Shack establishment.

“Having started this business … I’m now considering moving to Kent, because it’s a wonderful community. It’s given back to me, too,” Gibson said. “All the people there are extremely friendly. They’ve embraced us. We feel like we belong.”

Before the store’s founding, though, Gibson wasn’t always a sauce fan.

“I’m used to eating very plain meals,” he said. “I used to have a bottle of Tabasco sauce and a bottle of Frank’s hot sauce in my refrigerator in a tray that used to clank as you opened it—now it’s full, and other bottles are waiting to enter.”

The variety of sauces at the Shack vary not only in spiciness and flavor, but also in origin.

“We have hot sauces from all over the world,” Gibson said. “Belize, Costa Rica—and they all have these stories. One of them, Irazu, the peppers are grown in volcanic soil, so they have a very distinct flavor.”

The sauces range from tropical and fruity to almost pure pepper extract, the hottest in the store and only able to be tasted with a waiver.

Erin Andro, a sociology graduate student at Kent State and Sauce Shack employee, said her favorite aspect of the job is “making people try things.”

“This guy, he came and tried the Pain is Good brand, and he was like ‘Woah!’” Andro said. “You know, (with) the snot, the tears—oh, it was rough, but … I chuckled a little. On the inside.”

Those who enter are cautioned to go slowly as the shop can attract everything from kids to seasoned hot sauce fans. Customer Donny Rambacher falls under the latter category, purchasing the Iguana brand of habanero pepper sauce.

“I love hot sauce, so I thought I would stop in,” Rambacher said. “I like spicy food in general. Usually, I go with Sriracha, but my bottle’s almost out and so I thought I’d try this.”

The Sauce Shack just may prove that the benefits of a love for hot sauce stretch farther than a scalded tongue.

“There’s a lot of seldom published but acknowledged health benefits to hot sauces,” Gibson said. “Besides that, you take a good hot sauce and it can always make an average meal very good.”

Cameron Gorman is a general assignment reporter for The Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected]