CaJohns Fiery Foods Co., which has more than a 20-year history in central Ohio, will shut its doors by the end of the week.

The Westerville-based company was acquired for an undisclosed price by Hot Shots Distributing in Charlotte, North Carolina, according to an announcement made June 25.

Founded by John “CaJohn” Hard in 1996, the company specializing in small-batch salsas, spice mixtures and hot sauces will close its headquarters Friday, June 29, at 816 Green Crest Drive.

The company’s Fire & Flavor store in the North Market will remain open, Hard said.

Meanwhile, Hard will serve as a consultant with Hot Shots Distributing and plans to open a lab somewhere in the Westerville area.

“We’re still going to have a presence in the (food) industry,” Hard said. “We’re just moving on to bigger and better things.”

Of the company’s 10 employees, four will continue to work for Hard.

He said he’s trying to find employment opportunities for the other six.

Hard’s father founded the Harold D. Hard Co., a business that sold fire-suppression equipment at 2040 Oakland Park Avenue, at Westerville Road, on the North Side of Columbus.

John Hard worked for his father before launching his line of spice products 22 years ago in the Northland-area building. Since then, he’s created more than 200 recipes, which have won 50 national and international awards. and earned him a spot in the Hot Sauce Hall of Fame.

He moved his company to Westerville in 2010.

Matt Heald, CEO of Hot Shots Distributing, said he’s watched many small-batch producers throw in the towel before they got a chance to be acquired.

“It’s such a shame and loss,” Heald said. “In John’s case, and in many other cases, it made sense for us because we built this company selling those sauces.”

Heald likened artisan-spice manufacturers to artisan-beer producers – they have a smaller but strong customer base that wants something different and a little bolder.

“This is a specialty industry, a niche industry, and the chile group is after a diversity of flavor,” he said.

Hard, 65, said he’s on the fence in terms of retirement.

“Part of me says onward and upward and parts of me says we have the torch, let someone else carry it,” he said. “We packed a lot into these 22 years. We’re very fortunate.”

gseman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekGary