Sara Willis, the owner and chef of Saucefly, has fans all around the world. The first restaurant she opened was in San Jose del Cabo, Mexico, in 1996. From there, she says, she worked as a private chef in Aspen for eight years for one patron who was such a fan of her cooking that he flew her from Eugene to Colorado for 10 days each month. There, Willis mingled with the stars, as one does in Aspen, with people like Lance Armstrong and Barbra Streisand sampling her food.
But now in Eugene, Willis doesn’t need to jet all over to give the people what they want. Saucefly’s main draw is its subscription food box delivery, a service that has been gaining popularity in the past few years — Sun Basket, HelloFresh and Blue Apron are examples. But Willis says she didn’t know how much people love having boxes delivered to their doorstep when she started Saucefly.
“I just thought it would be a good way to not have a restaurant and still be able to do my thing,” Willis says. “I didn’t realize that it was trending so hard.”
But Saucefly’s delivery service took off, and Willis says she now has customers all over the country, from California to Wisconsin, and she doesn’t have to fly anywhere. Customers receive 8 to 12 recipe ingredients each month, ranging from cocktail mixers — Willis says those are a big hit — to dips and, of course, sauces, all homemade.
Willis sees Saucefly as a graduation from services like Blue Apron, which provides recipients with every pre-proportioned ingredient necessary to make a meal. Saucefly’s boxes are more relaxed, allowing someone to make a recipe their own with unique, quality ingredients. “I think a lot of clients like that they’re kind of pushed to make things that they wouldn’t normally make,” Willis says.
While Willis has been delivering boxes for almost two years, in April she opened a brick-and-mortar location in downtown Eugene.
“I decided that I would like to have my workspace and first market in my hometown, where I can live close to work and be able to be very involved with the store to learn from the likes and dislikes of the customers,” Willis says.
Willis is planning pop-up events, like brunches and weekly recipe-learning classes, hoping to get the word out. She has been involved in the Eugene restaurant business for years, starting the now-closed Red Agave in 2001 and Carmelita Spats in 2013, to name two. She thinks Eugene is on the culinary up-and-up, and foodies here are looking for new places to eat, but they know what they want.
“The restaurant business is tough. People here will give you a couple of chances, but there’s not so many people here that if you blow it, they’ll keep coming back,” she says. “I think they appreciate good food.”
She also knows that Eugeneans are into organic, healthy food, which Saucefly definitely promotes with all-natural, homemade ingredients.
“I grew up eating brown rice and sautéed vegetables with hippie parents, so it’s important to me,” she says. “There’s a pretty high density of people like that here. So come check it out.”
Saucefly’s storefront is open 10:30 am to 8:30 pm Monday through Saturday at 1241 Willamette Street. More information, including food box subscriptions, at saucefly.com.