ZANESVILLE, Ohio — The story of New Mexico resident Jose Madrid is legendary and Mike Zakany knows his grandfather's tale and sauce recipe by heart.
His grandfather was the inspiration behind a new Mexican-style restaurant, Zaks, that he ran with his brothers and grocery store Jose Madrid Salsa that's he's owned and operated for the last three decades.
“He had a large garden and always grew all kinds of vegetables and fruits and so on and so forth and chili peppers. So ever since I was probably six to seven years old, I would go out to New Mexico about every two weeks. And sometimes I would stay there during the whole summer. And he was a great influence on my life,” said Zakany.
Zakany's paternal grandparents also ran a grocery store and butcher shop in Zanesville that opened in the 1940s.
“The Salsa King” as he's called by friends, worked in the produce section . . . years later he was a business owner, crafting and making his own salsa, focusing on fresh ingredients and attention to detail. It’s a tradition that continues 32 years later.
“Our trick is nothing but putting a lot of cilantro in it. Now I'm gonna show you the cilantro and you can see how much cilantro we put in it. And that is 60 bunches of cilantro for 12 gallons of salsa,” said Zakany.
Zakany has helped Jose Madrid's legend grow with 25 hand-crafted salsas and even more in development.
He still travels the country in hopes of one day becoming a national brand.
Perhaps one of the company's shining accomplishments is giving back to the tune of nearly $2 million over the past two decades.
“Schools, churches, clubs, organizations, sports teams, cheer teams and even non-profits. They go out and sell the salsa and they get 50% of the money. That's the favorite part of the business for me. Actually, I'm getting a little bit older now and I get a lot of thrills when I see a sports team or a dance team get $3,000 they can spend on whatever they want,” said Zakany.
Zakany said he believes his grandfather would be proud of his family’s continued commitment.
“Very good. He was kind of quiet, but whatever he said was important. So yeah, he would be pleased,” said Zakany.
Jose Madrid Salsa produces 20,000 bottles of salsa each year on site in Zanesville — and they distribute all over the country.
The business is located at 601 Putnam Ave. in Zanesville.
For more information, click here to visit josemadridsalsa.com.