Owner of Di Olivas opens Hot Sauce Werks on Main Street in St. Charles

Di Olivas Oil & Vinegar owner Robert Palleja has brought the heat back to St. Charles’ Historic Main Street. Hot Sauce Werks, which opened July 3 at 418 S. Main St., a couple blocks from Di Olivas, sells all things spicy. Items on offer include over 300 hot sauces, barbecue sauces and salsas, as well as hot pickles, pasta and sea salts, spicy maple syrup and mustard, and candied jalapenos. 

Although many of the items are sourced nationally and some internationally, the shop also features a small selection of local products from the St. Louis metro and bi-state areas. There will be a few crossover items sold at both the new spot and Di Olivas, but the majority of products will be unique to each location.

Like Di Olivas, Hot Sauce Werks also sells coffee beans that staff can grind in-store for customers, including a popular bourbon-infused coffee. There are currently 10 flavored options that are roasted in Illinois, and by the end of next week, Palleja plans to add about five unflavored brews that will be roasted in St. Louis.

After Figuero’s International Gourmet Foods (also a couple blocks from Di Olivas) changed ownership and names a few years ago and then moved off Main Street in early 2019, Palleja noticed people were missing the spice. “Anywhere from two to four times a week, people kept asking me where the hot sauce was,” he said. “After a year and a half of there not being hot sauce on the street, I decided I could get people what they were asking for.” 

Palleja is no stranger to heat. “Some people want to elevate their food with high quality fats and acids, and some people enjoy elevation with a certain level of spice,” he said. He notes that some of his most popular olive oils and balsamic vinegars are spicy. 

Although tasting, once a core component at Di Olivas and what would have likely been integral at Hot Sauce Werks, has been complicated by the pandemic, Palleja has a solution. In the future, he hopes to host Meet the Producer events, in which once a month, one of local purveyors will spotlight one of its products. 

“This way, there will be a single product very well-managed for [safe] tasting, and people can talk to the people that make these products right here in St. Louis,” he said. 

As for opening a store during a pandemic, Palleja said, “Like anything else, there’s challenges. The place I normally go to for [decorating] ideas has been closed for months.” Instead, the store’s mechanical theme is furnished with toolboxes and diamond deck shelving units from Cotton’s Ace Hardware.

Hot Sauce Werks is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday through Thursday with a closing time of 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.