Table Talk: CaJohn's Fiery Foods

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

John Hard has brought the heat to Westerville.

After five decades in the Northland area, Hard has moved CaJohn's Fiery Foods to a new facility at 816 Greencrest Dr. near I-270.

He has mixed feelings about leaving the building where his father started the Harold D. Hard Co., a fire-suppression business. "We used to put out fires," he said. "Now we start them."

Unfortunately, the 19,000-square-foot space wasn't made to house a food-manufacturing business. The Westerville location, at 11,000 square feet, was remodeled to fit the company's needs, he said. It will have a walk-in retail component, with the kitchen visible from the lobby. Tours are expected to start in May.

"It's just an opportunity for us to get into something that's much more conducive for what we do," he said.

"It's very exciting," added Hard's wife, Sue. "It's a new chapter in our lives, really. We're moving up and moving forward."

The two have been appointed to the New Development Council of the Chile Pepper Institute at New Mexico State University.

CaJohn's makes 180 products sold in all 50 states, Canada and Europe. The company has 12 employees. Hard claims it is the most-awarded specialty-foods manufacturer in the United States, earning more than 150 honors, including 48 Golden Chiles from Chile Pepper Magazine.

Hard's love of spicy fare started when he was a bachelor, when he would make pots of chili. He sold the Harold D. Hard building in 2004 and has been leasing the facility since then, devoting his time to the CaJohn's products.

He branched out two years ago, when he opened CaBoom Chili Co. in the North Market. He later teamed up with Stan Riley of Holy Smoke BBQ (known previously as Yoho's) but later bowed out of that relationship. Hard hasn't ruled out seeking another location in the North Market or opening a restaurant elsewhere.

Meanwhile, the former CaJohn's building will become a community-foods incubator, where people can rent out kitchen space.

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