Mesa grandmother’s Korean-inspired sauces to be sold at Walmart
PHOENIX — Korean-inspired cooking sauces made by a Mesa grandmother will soon be on Walmart shelves.
Kay Weldon cooked up the first sauce in the 1990s when she owned a restaurant in Albuquerque, New Mexico. A favorite among customers was her chicken wings because of her sauce. She started out serving the chicken wings as part of a Friday lunch special.
“It was sweet, tangy and spicy,” she said. “It was a big hit. My lunch line was 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. nonstop on Fridays.”
Ten years later, she sold the restaurant, got married and moved to Arizona with her family.
But she never stopped making the sauce. She made chicken wings smothered with her special sauce for friends and family.
“They all said, ‘You gotta open a restaurant. You gotta do something,’” she said. “‘The chicken wings are really, really good. Nobody has that kind of sauce.’”
For years, Weldon worked as a blackjack dealer at a local casino, but she never stopped thinking about starting her own business. She finally decided to go for it in 2009 when she started selling her sauces.
“At first, I thought it was an unreachable dream,” she said.
She rebranded her company in 2016 with a new name and more sauce flavors. Her company is called Ahssa Foods, which means “awesome” in Korean slang. Her big break came earlier this month when she pitched her product at Walmart’s annual Open Call event.
“They loved my sauce,” she said. “I even made chicken wings and Korean ribs so they could taste it, and they loved it.”
Weldon had already pitched her product to Walmart last year but wasn’t chosen. Instead, she was given advice on what changes to make and encouraged to re-apply. She added a “Made in USA” label and redesigned the label.
After she made the changes, she met the qualifications and Walmart agreed to start selling three of her seven sauce flavors: Korean Sweet and Tangy, Korean Hot and Spicy, Korean BBQ. Starting in September, the sauces will be on shelves at hundreds of Walmart stores in the western part of the U.S.
Weldon said having Walmart sell her sauces is an “American Dream come true.” She came to the U.S. from South Korea in 1973 and had to overcome language, financial and education barriers to get where she is today.
But she didn’t do it alone.
She credits her son and daughter for helping her launch her business and said her 9-year-old grandson designed the logo.
“I want to teach my kids and my grandkids that if you believe in yourself or you have a passion, don’t give up and go for it,” she said. “Someday somebody is going to recognize you, like a giant retailer like Walmart.”