Life » Culture

ROCHESTER TEN PAUL GUGLIELMO

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Age: 40
Occupation: Owner of Craft Cannery; Founder of Guglielmo Sauce
Current residence: Brighton, NY
Hometown: Conneaut, OH 


Dressed in a white smock splattered with red sauce stains, Paul Guglielmo seems at home inside the Craft Cannery in Bergen, despite a sweltering July day turning the facility into a tomato-scented sauna.

Most longtime Rochesterians know Guglielmo as Pauly, the radio personality who served as co-host and executive producer of the Brother Wease Show. In fact, even out of the corporate radio business for three years, an industry he had grown increasingly “disenchanted” with, his somewhat sardonic, often self-deprecating wit still seems poised for the FM Radio limelight.

Guglielmo made a leap of faith to buy the facility then known as Permac Enterprises in 2020. It was previously owned by Tony Perry, producer of the Coach Tony brand known for their jarred Rochester-style meat hot sauce, and at the time, Permac was also producing the meat sauce for Guglielmo.

Guglielmo made up an excuse to come out to the facility at 4:30 a.m. one winter’s morning. He knew Perry would be alone, and he could make his pitch to buy the facility. Perry told him to make an offer.

“I drove home, and it was January, and I was so excited that about 5:17 a.m. as I was crossing the (Frederick Douglass-Susan B. Anthony) Bridge into Rochester, and I rolled my window down and just started screaming out of happiness,” he said.



Paul’s partner in the business is Tom Riggio, a food industry professional who developed brands like Vitamin Water and BarkThins, and who Guglielmo calls “the professional love of my life.” Riggio’s son, Nick, was Paul’s first official hire at Guglielmo Sauce.

“(Paul is) a boss but also a friend,” Riggio said. “I feel comfortable talking to him about pretty much anything, so that’s the positive of it. There’s a lot of places you don’t want to talk to your boss at all.”

Today, the Craft Cannery produces products for 70 local brands, including Red Osier, Wegmans, and Naan-Tastic, alongside Guglielmo Sauce.

But Guglielmo insists his path to sauce magnate is a boring one. A native of Conneaut, Ohio, Guglielmo came to Rochester as a transfer while working at Clear Channel Radio in 2007. He missed home and found comfort in his grandfather’s sauce recipe. It became a side hustle in 2014.

RAFAEL RODRIGUEZ
  • RAFAEL RODRIGUEZ
The first jar he ever sold was to his grandfather out of the Orlando Brothers Golden Dawn Grocery Store in Conneaut.

“We made a whole production out of him picking the first jar off the shelf and walking it up to the counter,” Guglielmo said. “He was not very media trained, because the first thing he said was, ‘Oh, I would never pay this kind of money for sauce.’”

In 2015, Guglielmo’s big break was getting into Wegmans, a distinctly Rochester story. Robert Salisbury of Lanovara Specialty Foods was vying to be Guglielmo’s distributor and set up a meeting with Wegmans product developer Dan Mezzoprete, who had coincidentally just picked up a jar from Calabresella's deli in Gates.

JoAnn VerHulst, a merchandising specialist at Wegmans who also runs VerHulst Haunted Hayride in Spencerport where Guglielmo was playing Michael Myers, caught wind of the meeting. She made a note to drop in on the meeting and vouch for Guglielmo.

“I got an email from Dan that Friday saying, ‘Listen, we’re interested in carrying your sauce,” Guglielmo said.

Today, the business has not only exceeded his wildest expectations, but afforded him the chance to give back to his adopted home’s community. Next year, Guglielmo has been tapped as incoming president of the Rochester Rotary Club.

When he started the business, he said, there were only two goals.

“The first was just to hold a jar of actually legally sellable sauce, and the second was to get into the grocery store in Conneaut called Golden Dawn,” he said. “Everything else since then has just been like, holy shit.”