“I know Charles would want us to keep moving,” Arsha Jones says. The CEO and co-founder of mambo sauce company Capital City Co. is grieving the loss of her husband of 14 years, who was also her business partner. “This business was in his heart.” Charles Jones died on Oct. 11 at age 46 after suffering a heart attack while on a college campus tour in Georgia with one of the couple’s four sons.
Capital City Co. started as a home-based business back in 2011 and took off in 2016, growing into a major operation based in Arnold, Maryland. It now brings in $2 million in annual sales of D.C.’s signature sauce. Charles’ death comes just as Capital City Co. is readying to expand its reach.
“We’ve been offered opportunities with Papa John’s,” Arsha says. “People are always calling. We have an upcoming opportunity with Target that will give us some national retail space. Our next goal beyond the initial one was we need to make this thing nationwide similar to how Old Bay is such a regional product here, but you can find a can or two in California.” The native Washingtonian elaborates that she wants mambo sauce to gain the same notoriety as New York cheesecake, Chicago deep dish pizza, and Philadelphia cheesesteaks.
Arsha says her husband, who was born in Prince George’s County, started from very humble beginnings. “He left school without quite figuring out what he wanted to do in life.” After a brief stint at community college, he enlisted in the Army where he gained experience in logistics. When he retired from the military, Arsha expected him to take “the traditional route of getting a nice little government job.”
Instead he teamed up with his wife. “This business gave him something to live for, to be passionate about,” Arsha says. “He wore our mambo sauce shirts with pride. He woke up ready to work. I’ve never seen him this excited about any job he’s had. He managed the warehouse, learning and improving every day. He was so proud of what we have built. I’m hoping to honor his memory and keep our dream alive.”
Arsha adds says the couple was particularly proud to be a successful black-owned business in a changing D.C. “We’re hoping that we can bring visibility of this product so people can hold on to some of the old D.C.” In addition to selling mambo sauce by the gallon, they also make T-shirts like one that reads, “Mambo Sauce, Go-Go & Half-Smokes.”
The couple was inseparable. “We were always together,” Arsha says. “People would always ask, ‘How can ya’ll be together all day and then still be together?’ We just really enjoyed each other’s company. Outside of being married and parents, we were friends. We laughed and watched movies, went to shows. He was my biggest fan. If you ever met him, he wanted the world to know how much he loved and appreciated me.”