The Walter White of Hot has opened up a store on Fort Crook Road.
“I have a customer who comes in and says, ‘Can you make another 50 pounds, please, Mr. White,’” laughs Tim Bader, owner, operator and chief cook at Volcanic Peppers, Bellevue’s newest specialty store.
The reference to the “Breaking Bad” television drama, in which chemistry teacher Walter White “cooks” a highly popular form of methamphetamine, brings a chuckle from the burly Bader.
“I love that show,” he said.
His own show is not bad, either.
His storefront door jingled constantly Thursday, even though he has not yet staged his formal grand opening.
Clearly, there is healthy interest in Bellevue for sauces and salsas full of ghost, douglah and scorpion peppers, whose rich colors warn of the fierce heat burning within.
Bader has mild sauces and salsas for rational human beings, but the customers streaming in Thursday weren’t interested in rational. They wanted hot. They wanted it for chicken, hamburgers, pork, salsa, soups and even for sprinkling on otherwise boring white rice.
And Bader was happy to offer samples on little plastic spoons that somehow did not melt under their contents.
Bader, 42, has been cooking batches of heat for six years, growing thousands of wrinkly, sinister-looking red and green peppers in the backyard of his west Omaha home and transforming them into bottles of sauces and canisters of powder in a small industrial kitchen at the rear of his store.
His love of spices began as a teenager.
“I’d ask for something hot, but I could never get anything that would make me sweat,” he said.
“Then I found Thai food, and that was the beginning.”
His business was born when his daughter, Abbi, suggested he sell his homemade products from a table at the bottom of his driveway.
Bader opted instead for a Farmer’s Market spot at Village Point in West Omaha where he developed a loyal and growing clientele, which grew into a storefront in Plattsmouth, which has now become a storefront in Bellevue where Bader, his daughter, his brother and his niece all work to keep the heat on high.
“I just recently moved here,” he said. “There’s more demand for my sauces, so I have to have a lot of room for empty jars and stock. The Plattsmouth place was too small. This place is perfect for me.”
That place is 601 Fort Crook Road N., directly south of the old La Mesa restaurant.
“My biggest local customer base is Omaha,” Bader said, “so it was difficult to expect them to drive all the way to Plattsmouth, but this is a little closer and right off the highway.”
The driving force behind his business right now is the Internet, where Bader’s products may be ordered at volcanicpeppers.com.
But he said walk-in traffic is already lively.
“It’s good,” he said. “Maybe my next step is to have a few tables where I can serve food, or perhaps some take-out.”