Before they knew it would one day become the cornerstone of a new business in downtown Roseburg, Terrance Bradford and Tyler Ramos, originally from Texas, had created a salsa recipe. Back then, they call it “chillin salsa” because they’d bring it to hang outs, game nights and parties. Now, it is one of seven salsas and various menu items they offer at Roseburg Salsa Company.
Bradford and Ramos had both moved up from Texas to Oregon, where they worked as faculty members at Umpqua Community College. The two would occasionally bring the salsa to work with them to treat their students.
“I would leave the salsa out for maybe 20 to 30 minutes and if there wasn’t a fight over it, it was all gone,” Bradford said with a laugh. He kept the recipe on the back burner until he had the opportunity to start the company, which presented itself in 2014 when he teamed up with former UCC students Robert Kalchert and Cody Scott.
“I love working with Terrance and when he left UCC I saw a better opportunity in starting a business with him than staying at UCC. Not to say anything against UCC, but I wanted to try something new and I went for it,” Kalchert said.
Scott wanted to try his hand at entrepreneurship and jumped at the opportunity to start the business with Bradford.
“The food was intriguing to me and I had never been good at differentiating tastes and flavors, but through this process I’ve been able to acquire those skills and then put forth the energy I have into something that’s helping the community and all of us,” Scott said.
Bradford decided to name the company after the town to show his pride and love for the place, and to promote awareness about Roseburg in other parts of the state.
The three started the business in 2014 and sold their first order —20 units to Sherm’s Thunderbird Market — in November of the same year. The chillin salsa, now known as “bold” and the hot salsa are available in stores between Sutherlin and Talent, Oregon. After initially being rejected by C&K Market, Bradford posted the retailer’s customer request form online asking his friends to let it know Roseburg Salsa Co. products were in high demand. Soon after, C&K Market changed its tune and welcomed the salsas to its shelves.
Ramos liked the direction the guys were taking the business and decided to join them further down the road.
Roseburg Salsa Company transformed into a restaurant on Jackson Street in early March 2017 with menu items focused around the salsa, including chicken strips, nachos and burritos. The business further expanded to offer seven salsas, including one created by a chef who wanted help getting his product to the market. Before moving into the storefront, the staff would rent kitchen space from the location that housed Umpqua Local Goods and then Cascadian Coffee.
The green salsa is expected to appear in stores late this summer, and the company is currently relabeling the products according to a number system. Bold will now be called number one and the hot salsa will now be number two.
Ramos and Bradford said they both wanted to give back to the community through education.
“I’m very passionate about giving back to the community, whether it’s through GED study prep, tutoring or meeting with them one on one to help out with life,” Ramos said. “It’s one of my goals and it’s nice the business is aligned with that.”
Roseburg Salsa Co.’s educational component also includes funding educational efforts, scholarships and online courses through websites Coursera and edX. The company also partnered with the Phoenix School’s Future Business Leaders of America program, in which Bradford guest taught entrepreneurship and marketing classes and helped run projects and workshops for the students.
“We try to expose Douglas County to different education initiatives and build economic growth in the community,” Bradford said. More education, he added, leads to more growth in the local economy, businesses and students’ lives.
Kalchert and Scott, both in their early 20s, were raised in Roseburg and said they’ve personally benefited from the programs themselves.
“When we came into this, neither Cody nor I had any business experience, so being part of that program we own our own business now and we continue to take these classes to further our competencies,” Kalchert said. “Internally we’re doing that and we’re also trying to reach outward and directly influence the community as well.”
Scott said the Roseburg community as a whole is trying to grow, and Roseburg Salsa Co. can be part of that growth.
The business currently has two interns working toward developing their business skills while getting paid and furthering their education. One is taking web design classes online through the University of Michigan while the other is enrolled in University of California Berkley’s music production program.
“Sometimes students come in with all kinds of issues, or needing some growth and development, and we as educators and even more so as friends and people who are compassionate try to do what can to help develop them and have those conversations,” Bradford said.
One student intern, Bradford said, had been abandoned by his mother and was living with friends and on the street, and he was kicked out of a house because he came to work at the company. Now, the 16-year-old will be living with Bradford and developing his education and work skills.
Roseburg Salsa plans to host community events, including its second annual Up in the Burg BMX event in late summer. Scott, who has won awards doing tricks and flips on BMX bicycles at skate parks, is leading the effort to collaborate with regional and local sponsors and businesses to put on the show.
Starting a new company and moving into the restaurant arena has not come without its challenges, including two burglaries that resulted in the loss of electronic equipment the staff had planned to use for community education events. Much of the business’ initial funds have gone toward fixing the plumbing, HVAC and other issues with the old building, leaving less room in the budget for enhancing the restaurant’s aesthetics. But, Scott noted, there are many opportunities for future development.
While waiting for their order of chicken strips to dip into the salsas, customers can hear the slogan, “it’s all good,” repeated throughout the kitchen. When one of the cooks checks the temperature of the chicken and finds it’s just right, he calls out the slogan for his coworkers to echo back. The saying reminds the staff they can overcome hardships as a team and no matter what happens along the way, it’s all good.