Art Skrenski describes the food in his youth from his Polish family as bland. It explains why he and his grandfather were obsessed with visiting Chinese restaurants and finding the best hot mustard. The hotter the better.
He always liked his food spicy whether it was meals he prepared for his hard-working parents or the dishes he created when he moonlighted in area restaurants.
By day he was designing high voltage underground electrical connectors in the utility industry, but by night, he was stirring up batches of five-alarm chili.
After 20 years he said goodbye to the mechanical field and said hello to his own business, Easton Salsa Company, makers of salsa and hot sauce.
Each week Art cranks out close to 500 pounds of fresh salsa, selling it in bulk to local restaurants and packaged to consumers at the Easton Farmers’ Market. And at bars across the region, folks can grab a bottle of his hot sauce and dab it on each bite… At least at the bars where Art was a regular.
He began messing around with alcohol, like many kids, as a teenager. While he had phases where he drank more and drank less, he got caught in a pattern that became years of heavy use.
“I now can see that I was semi-functional,” Art says. “If functional means still living, breathing and showing up. But I was not living up to my full capability.”
His brother described Art’s choice as a rock star lifestyle with the one exception: Art was not a rock star.
When Easton Salsa Company started, his use spiked.
“The standards for alcohol use are different in the restaurant industry,” he says. “I was frustrated with the growth of the company, that I wasn’t growing as fast as or better than other small businesses.”
Over time, Art gained weight, was tried and mentally exhausted.
When he took a vacation to visit his mother in Florida, she begged him to go to the doctor.
He listened to her. Arriving back home, he visited a walk-in facility that told him he should be at the Emergency Room, so he went to Easton Hospital.
“It was the natural choice for me,” he says. “My dad always got great care there when he was battling cancer.”
After a few tests, the emergency physician told Art that he had acute liver failure. Art was admitted for further tests.
The test confirmed: Cirrhosis of the liver.
The diagnosis wasn’t shocking to him, but it did require a clear choice that Art felt ready to make. But he still had to recuperate.
“The care was excellent at Easton Hospital,” says Art. “The nurses did great and the case managers wanted to help identify what I would need to be successful… programs, medications, supplements.”
He opted for none of it. He just stopped drinking, marking the day as Halloween of 2015.
“I was physically weak when I was discharged,” he says. “It took nearly seven months for me to lose the weight, gain some strength and restore my muscle tone.”
Harder has been the mental journey.
“It’s never easy to come to terms with sobriety,” Art says. “So I poured myself into it.”
Art smirks at his own joke.
“I spoke with some close friends to start,” he says. “And today I see the same stuff as I saw before but my perspective has shifted. I have more clarity about what’s important and what’s not and more vitality for the time I have left.”
So he’s going back to his roots by playing with fire. Art is set to launch a new product line: five-alarm chili.
He knows it will really generate a buzz—the only kind he’s looking for.
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Easton, PA 18042-3892