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Chick-fil-A's new sauce was developed by a local retired franchise owner
Hugh Fleming, shown here with his son, Todd, came up with the recipe for the popular sauce that Chick-fil-A is now distributing nationally.
CHRISTOPHER WEHLING/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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BY CATHY JETT
Hugh Fleming never named the wildly popular sauce he created out of necessity for his Chick-fil-A store in Spotsylvania Mall.
Customers, who have been known to get cranky if the tangy, honey-mustard concoction with a hint of barbecue sauce isn't available, have called it everything from "that special sauce" to "Mr. Fleming's sauce."
Now they'll have to ask for it by its official title. Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A has turned the creation, which had been available only in the Fredericksburg area, into its Chick-fil-A sauce.
Part of the chain's rollout of new products nationwide, it comes in foil-topped dipping-sauce containers paired with revamped chicken strips and in 8-ounce containers packaged with chicken-strip party platters. It's also available separately.
"To have the Chick-fil-A name on something I created is really flattering," said Fleming. "I can't tell you how much I think of this company. They're tops on the list of companies to work for and do business with."
He gave the recipe, which includes Chick-fil-A coleslaw sauce, to the company in appreciation for all the help it has given him and his family since he started his first store 28 years ago in what is now Spotsylvania Towne Centre.
"I could never have developed it without being under the Chick-fil-A roof," said Fleming, who retired in February. "It was, as far as I was concerned, a shared credit as far as making it successful. It was my way of paying the company back."
Chick-fil-A has had its eye on Fleming's sauce for years, largely because local customers would ask for it at the company's other restaurants and be disappointed because it wasn't available.
"We heard those stories and said, 'Hey, it's obvious they're on to something,'" said company spokesman Mark Baldwin.
Chick-fil-A's first stab at commercializing Fleming's handmade sauce four years ago, however, didn't turn out like the original. Called Honey Roasted BBQ Sauce, it was tweaked and made thicker so it would stay on the chain's char-gilled chicken sandwiches.
"We knew immediately that it wasn't close enough for people to be happy about it," said Todd Fleming, Hugh's son and owner of the Chick-fil-A in Central Park. "It's not a bad substitute, but it's not the same thing."