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Entrepreneur takes Spicy Wench to next level with online sales

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This pair of spicy wenches — dressed in bawdy red dresses and knee-high, high-heeled boots — get second looks from men who stop by their booth at summer festivals. What cousins Alexandria L. Hoffman and Amanda S. White sell, however, has caused sweat to drip down their foreheads and even causes their eyes to behave like lawn sprinklers.

Launched by owner Christine E. Hoffman in November 2011, the Spicy Wench sells a spectrum of pepper jellies that range from its sweet “Italian Belle” to its super-hot “Demon’s Delight.” The latter has a reputation for making macho men break into tears. Mrs. Hoffman’s 16-year-old daughter, Alexandria — who has a resilient palate and stomach — takes sadistic delight in challenging men to spicy-pepper duels.

“It’s always great to see the tough guys try to beat her. She likes to see them cry,” Mrs. Hoffman said. “They puke, but she has a stomach of steel. This girl can eat horrific stuff.”

Miss Hoffman and her 19-year-old cousin have appeared together in their glitzy outfits at numerous summer festivals to spread the word about the new business. Much of 2011 was spent getting the word out about Mrs. Hoffman’s small-scale business, which sells pepper and fruit jams and dried peppers, onions and garlic. Its growing customer base this year led to the launch of its professionally designed website, www.thespicywench.com. The business also made contracts with two local farms that grow peppers, Cross Island Farms of Wellesley Island and Garden Hill Farms in Champion.

Mrs. Hoffman started a pepper garden in the fall of 2009 at the suggestion of her husband, Troy A., who is a government contractor working in Iraq. She just didn’t expect the pepper jellies produced from the 4-by-4-foot boxes in her garden to become popular so fast.

“All of his friends overseas love them,” she said. They can be used on bagels, pasta, pizza or just about anything. “They eat in a cafeteria every day, so it adds some spice to their food.”

Thanks to the launch of the website, Mrs. Hoffman now ships her products nationwide and to a slew of countries overseas — Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, South Korea and England. The business also reaches out to customers on Facebook and by sending newsletters every other month.

Last week, Mrs. Hoffman mailed about 20 boxes stocked with products as Christmas gifts.

“We get most of our sales online, but a lot of people here still don’t know about us,” she said.

Her booth has been a popular stop at the French Festival in Cape Vincent, Cream Cheese Festival in Lowville, Made in New York Festival in Sackets Harbor and Autumn Festival on Wellesley Island.

“I have samples of everything at events, and people will take our business card and buy products online,” she said.

Mrs. Hoffman, who was a planner for the city of Watertown for six years, laughs when asked what inspired her business’s name; it’s a question she’s no stranger to. Her husband nicknamed her the “saucy wench,” she said, “because I talk so much. So when he said I should start selling peppers, I said the business should be called ‘the spicy wench’ instead of saucy.”

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