Big Daddy Lee’s salsa is chunky, like fresh homemade salsa. It's a spicy salsa with enough sweetness for those who like their salsa on the mild side.

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Lee Holdeman likes adding a little spice to his life.

For over 10 years now, Holdeman has served on the Nappanee Apple Festival committee and now heads up the entertainment committee, a job he used to do with friend Maynard Miller.

They would book the bands and entertainment acts for the four-day festival. Four years ago, Holdeman took over.

Along with that and his computer business, he’s been spicing things up with a salsa recipe. The recipe was developed over a 10-year period with his two youngest children Walker and Emily. He said it started when they were “just goofing around one day and decided to make some salsa.”

They kept tinkering with the recipe until two years ago, when they decided they got it where they wanted it. Friends and family seemed to like the salsa, so Lee decided to get some packaged and sell it at the Nappanee Apple Festival two years ago.

The salsa is named Big Daddy Lee’s salsa — in honor of the nickname his four children have for him.

“When the kids were small they called me Big Daddy Lee or Daddy-O so when I called and asked them what I should name it they all said the same thing,” Holdeman explained.

Now the salsa is carried in 21 Martin’s Supermarkets, which came about at first sort of by accident. After Holdeman got UPC labels for his jars of salsa, he brought them in to Maynard Miller, the produce manager at Martin’s Supermarket in Nappanee. He asked Miller to scan the label to see if they worked. They did and, according to Holdeman, Miller said he would just leave it in the system. What he didn’t sell at the festival, Holdeman could bring to the store to sell.

Holdeman said he sold 25-30 cases at the Apple Festival. There are 12 jars to a case and a batch is about 60 cases. Holdeman has to have someone else run the booth for him because he’s busy taking care of three stages of entertainment.

After getting the salsa in the Nappanee Martin’s, Holdeman thought he might as well approach some of the other stores. So his first visit was to the Goshen Bashor Road store where he discovered he knew the manager.

“Tim looked at me and said, ‘Salsa?’ I shrugged and said ‘I know,’” he shared. But they accepted the product and by the end of 2017 he was in six Martin’s stores and spoke to his producer about increasing the number of batches. In 2018, he added six more Martin’s stores and now Big Daddy Lee’s salsa is in 21 Martin’s Supermarkets in the area.

Big Daddy Lee’s salsa is “co-packed” locally in Bremen. Holdeman said he initially started with another company but they couldn’t get the recipe right, so a friend recommended this company. They produce and package the salsa for him based on his recipe and sometimes with ingredients he’s personally provided them.

He said the food processor admitted, “They figured I’d do one batch and be done — but it’s worked out well.”

He hadn’t planned to make a business out of his salsa. “I knew nothing about it,” he laughed.

But he said Martin’s has sold 30,000 jars in two years and now they go pick up the product versus Lee delivering it to the stores.

Big Daddy Lee’s salsa is chunky, like fresh homemade salsa. It is described as spicy salsa with enough sweetness for those who like their salsa on the mild side.

Holdeman’s son Walker said, “I suppose it’s really nice being able to take something we created and enjoyed for the longest time and be able to share that joy with countless others. I’ve always taken pride in our salsa and seeing so many people enjoy it and the demand for it only rise gives a sense of accomplishment.”

On that subject Holdeman said, “I am grateful for Martin’s willingness to work with an unknown local producer and the genuine excitement I received from many of the produce managers and employees.”

“My favorite thing is the stories I hear from folks who have tried Big Daddy Lee’s salsa and tell me about all the things they use it for besides dipping into it with chips; how it is at their family gatherings, game nights and how they share it with friends and family.”

Right now Big Daddy Lee’s salsa is one variety, but Holdeman said he is working on a queso salsa.

Adopted from The Goshen News article