For many local businesses in Tomball, setting up shop at the local farmers market has been the first step on the road to store ownership.

“We went to Tomball Farmers Market one day with 52 jars of fresh salsa,” Pain Train Salsa co-owner Shane Nobles said. “Fifteen minutes into it, we didn’t think we were going to sell one, [but] an hour and a half later, we sold out.”

After 14 months of selling his salsas at various farmers markets, Nobles said he worked with landlord Mitchell Holderrieth to convert a hair salon to a storefront with a commercial kitchen in August 2015 at 403 W. Main St., Tomball.

“When we opened the storefront, it was mainly to have our own commercial kitchen, but the [number] of people that actually come in to buy it at the storefront has been shocking,” he said.

Nobles works with his wife, Bianca, and his father-in-law, Frank Hewitt, to manage day-to-day operations, he said. He got his start in salsa making while working in a restaurant in college and continued developing recipes as a hobby while working as a track and field coach at Magnolia West High School. He said the business’s name was inspired by his time in athletics.

The top-selling product is the Green-Go salsa. The top-selling product is the Green-Go salsa.[/caption]

“It goes back to coaching—when I was a [football] defensive coordinator, we used to have a blitz [play] called Pain Train,” Nobles said. “So I knew when I was coming up with the name, it fit perfectly.”

Nobles said Pain Train’s salsas are made by oven-roasting peppers and tomatoes for three hours to caramelize them and develop natural flavors. Each of the four salsas—Green-Go, Perfect Hot, Medium and Nuclear Lightning—retail for $8. Pain Train Salsa also sells thick, housemade chips that retail for $6 per bag.

“The big thing here is we’re all-natural—there are no additives in anything that we do,” Nobles said. “We have this saying here that we don’t put anything in our salsa that we can’t spell.”

Pain Train’s biggest seller is the Green-Go, a salsa verde made with avocados, onions and Serrano peppers.

Owner Shane Nobles said Pain Train Salsa uses peppers with varying levels of heat that can be ranked on the Scoville Scale, which measures how spicy each pepper tastes. Owner Shane Nobles said Pain Train Salsa uses peppers with varying levels of heat that can be ranked on the Scoville Scale, which measures how spicy each pepper tastes.[/caption]

“We added it six months ago, and [sales have] been through the roof; we sell twice as much of that than the red salsas combined,” he said. “What makes it premium is we put more avocados in it than anyone else.”

Another favorite is the seasonal Nuclear Lightning salsa, which uses Carolina Reaper peppers, the world’s hottest pepper, Nobles said. Many of the salsas are made with peppers Nobles grows himself, along with other local ingredients.

In addition to the storefront and nearby farmers markets, Nobles said the salsas can also be found at Smitty’s Meat Market and Tejas Chocolate in Tomball as well as Theiss Meat Market, M&R Liquors in Spring and has even been used in the omelet bar at the Hilton Americas hotel in downtown Houston.

“We want to be the Guinness of salsa,” Nobles said. “In a lot of ways salsa is a lot like beer—people are passionate about it.”

403 W. Main St., Tomball.
Hours: Mon. - Fri. 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., Sat. 1 - 3p.m., closed Sun.