Stoking the Small Businesses in Wilmington, NC — Part II with Fire & Spice

Some of the offerings at Fire & Spice in Wilmington

Fire & Spice Gourmet

Fire & Spice Gourmet in the Historic Cotton Exchange

We’ve been paying Tommy a visit for about eight years in his store, the Fire & Spice Gourmet. Located in the historic Cotton Exchange, Tommy and Judy Cooper offer wine, sauces, seasonings, kitchen gadgets and every hot sauce you can imagine. Tommy knows his products too. We always bought the Aussie rub and Tommie can tell you why in detail the company no longer makes our favorite rub. You may be able to get some of his products online, but visiting the store in person is worth it. You walk out with much more than your purchases.

Kathy, a retired New Yorker complete with the accent, now living in Wilmington, was staffing the shop today. She said, “You wouldn’t believe the women who go for these hot sauces. I’m not a sexist or anything, but I just always thought hot sauce was a macho thing. Not so…women like them too.”

I never quite thought about hot sauce that way, but I suppose if I worked at Fire &Spice, I might think about those kinds of things. I see Kathy’s point. After all, it was my husband Bill who discovered this place and remains a loyal customer.

Every hot sauce you can imagine and more.

Today’s purchases: three hot sauces and a southern treat:

Marie Sharpe’s Comatose Heat Level Habenero Pepper Sauce

The heat level was XXXXX (that is five Xs!). We gave this to our neighbors whose 14-year-old son, Kevin, loves taste-testing hot sauces. The critique came back as not so hot that it made you uncomfortable. It was spicy hot but with a nice flavor. Kevin said that even some XXX levels he has tried just burnt and didn’t have a good taste.

Gecko Gary’s Roastin’ Red PepperSauce

This is a hot sauce with a blend of roasted red pepper, red-ripened pepper and ripened jalapenos and habanero peppers with fresh garlic and southwestern seasoning. It’s robust with a bite and I recommend it for a variety of palates. Love the cute blue gecko on the label.

Magma Hot Sauce (Talk about “Stoking a Fire!”)

This one looks scary. It’s not even red until you shake it up. Directions read “Tilt then Shake.” Manufactured by CaJohns Groumet Foods, I have a feeling this one is true to its label that states: “WARNING! An Eruption of Disastrous Proportions…EXTREMELY HOT!

Oddly enough, the ingredients are vinegar, water, salt, and oleoresin of capsicum which is an agent found in pepper spray. Too bad Tommy wasn’t on site to explain this one.  This remains untested at this writing. I’ll let you know if anyone was brave enough to try it.

And, my favorite southern treat — Rose & Ivy Southern Pecan Pepper Jelly

Pepper jelly -- part of a well-stocked pantry.

When I chose this brand, Kathy rolled her eyes back in her head and said, “Ohh…mmmmm….that one is so delicious but my diabetes won’t let me eat it!”

I completely trust Kathy so I bought it. This all natural pepper jelly is made homemade by Bell Buckle Country Store, Inc., in Bell Buckle, Tennessee, where else?

This pepper jelly should be a pantry staple along with a block of cream cheese for those pop-in guests. Put the cream cheese in a pretty dish and pour some pepper jelly over it and serve with water crackers and they’ll think you’re real southern. Offer the beverages and you are good to go. (Now we’re talkin’ Kelley Hospitality!)

Be sure to visit Fire & Spice Gourmet in the Cotton Exchange, 312 Nutt Street, Wilmington, NC 28401. Phone: 910.762.3050. Email:

And remember, support those local businesses wherever you are!