Event fires up store's customers

July 06, 1997


Staff Writer

FREDERICK, Md. - On East Street in Frederick, along an old industrial strip now lined with car lots and convenience stores, is a treasure-house of the weird.

Off the Deep End, owned by Steve and Sally Colby, has everything from a life-size cutout of W. C. Fields to a 1975 Sports Illustrated featuring Pete Rose.

The business, now seven years old, thrives off an eclectic clientele and the weird collectables they come to buy, Steve Colby said.


This holiday weekend, the couple is featuring a relatively new specialty of the house: salsa and sauces.

Friday, Saturday and today , they're offering customers a sampling of more than 100 different Caribbean and North American salsas and sauces at heats ranging from mild to incendiary.

The event, appropriately named "Taste O' Fire 100," had attracted nearly 200 people to the 712 East St. store by closing Saturday.

Mike Benton, of Goldsboro, N.C., who is here on a visit, carefully selected his favorites of the day, including one named Heinie-Hurtin' Hot Sauce. "I've never seen such an assortment, and I'm a big sauce fan," he said.

He also bought Blair's Sudden Death, complete with a plastic skull dangling by an aluminum link chain from the bottle's neck.

Tom Hayden, who came in from Pikesville, Md., after reading an advertisement in a Baltimore newspaper, said it took him a few hours to try 50 or 60 sauces.

"I was sweating and crying and dripping blood, just about." He said he'd take breaks to check out the shelves of cool stuff in the adjoining four rooms.

A life-sized cardboard cut-out of Ernest - the "You-know-what-I-mean, Verne" guy - pointed Hayden down to the used book store basement.

There he found six books, including "Time Management for Dummies," that accompanied his purchase of Mrs. Dog's Disappearing Mustard and Pirate's Blend Caribbean Condiment.

"The name and graphics are a big part of the sales," Colby said of the 100 bottles sporting colorful, creative and sometimes R-rated labels.

He said they started selling sauces over two years ago. "It fit in with our Caribbean look. It appealed to our sense of the bizarre." This weekend marks the first of what he plans as an annual tasting extravaganza, he said.

Another of the store's premiere collectables are pink flamingos.

Lining the front-room shelves are ceramic flamingo lawn ornaments, hand lotion dispensers, ashtrays and figurines.

Michele, from Uniontown, Pa., was buying a ceramic flamingo toilet brush holder in hot pink, for $34.95. She asked to have her last name withheld because she didn't want her colleagues to know of her flamingo fetish.

Steve Colby digs pink flamingos. "They're fun, tacky and unpretentious. A lot of places are stuffy, but we're fun. We laugh and have a good time."

Steve and Sally Colby created the store from previous work. "I was in the government military surplus business - and into collecting weird stuff - and she was in the antique business," he said.

Now they comb estate sales and auctions looking for strange and unwanted stuff, and creating an island of vintage misfits in a house of hilarity.

Their welcome mats read: "Where the hell have you been," "This better be important" and "Don't step on doormat." One refrigerator magnet reads: "My house was clean yesterday, sorry you missed it."

"We do a real big business in fake dog doo," Colby said.

They also sell vintage cloths, antique furniture and kitchen goods, turn-of-the-century Singers and authentic Hawaiian shirts for $55.

Colby said roughly 15 percent of sales are a result of their home page - He said people who would rather not travel to Frederick can check out their flamingos, salsas, sauces and prices on the Web.

The Herald-Mail Articles