We chew the fat with Amy McDonnell, the owner of Beef Jerky Experience in Pleasant Prairie.
Q. How did you get involved in the retail side of the Beef Jerky Experience?
A. I was a fan of Beef Jerky Experience jerky for a long time. I would special order their jerky rather than buying jerky in the grocery or convenience store where I lived. A few years ago, I discovered that Beef Jerky Experience was looking for new owner/operators and I became interested in owning my own store. Once I met the owners of Beef Jerky Experience, I was sold. The company is still family run and consists of a small, tight-knit group of professionals whose overarching goal is to deliver fantastic tasting jerky to everyone who wants it.
Q. What is your favorite part about owning/running the Beef Jerky Experience in Pleasant Prairie?
A. I think my favorite part is interacting with customers and seeing so many people who think they are not fans of jerky become huge fans once they taste our product. In addition, customers are pleasantly surprised that we have a lot more than jerky. It’s fun introducing them to chocolate covered bugs, pickled eggs, unique hot sauces, and “gator toes.”
Q. What is the most challenging part of your job?
A. Recently the biggest challenge has been dealing with operating during a pandemic. We have had to scale back our sampling and implement many safety protocols so that we can ensure that both our team members and customers have a safe shopping experience.
Q. With the challenges of the current economy, what steps have you taken to continue to drive your business forward?
A. While we have always had an online store, we have expanded our offerings and implemented a rewards program where customers can now shop, earn and redeem their points online as well in-store. We are also constantly thinking of new specials we can offer to our rewards customers to thank them for their continued support.
Q. What is the experience like people have when they come to the Beef Jerky experience store?
A. Normally we have samples available of most out our jerky and many other items. However, due to the pandemic we have had to scale back. But visiting our store is still quite the experience! When you enter you will be given a “tour” of each of our six flavor zones and see the many other treats we offer including gourmet popcorn, peanuts, hot sauces, barbecue sauces, candy, edible bugs and more!
Q. What makes your store stand out from others, what is something particularly unique?
A. I think our store is unique in that we offer small-batch craft jerky made specifically for our store. You can’t get Beef Jerky Experience jerky anywhere else. We also strive to carry other unique, delicious products that our customers can’t easily get elsewhere. For example, our flavored popcorns and peanuts are made by two small, specialized vendors who work with us directly. Similarly, while you may find pickles and jams at your grocery store, you likely won’t find the pickled eggs or okra that we carry, nor will you find such unique jams as “hogs-breath summer saison.” We strive to offer our customers unique, delicious snacks, no matter what their taste preference.
Q. How do you cope with the everyday pressure of retail?
A. Retail is always a challenge, especially during a pandemic. But we think that our quality product, selection of unique jerky and snacks, and our stellar customer service sets us apart.
Q. What advice would you give other entrepreneurs/managers/owners that are starting out?
A. I think the biggest thing is to make sure you love the product or service that you are going to sell. If you believe in the product, service, or company it makes your job easier. Secondly, surrounding yourself with excellent team members is key. Finally, be willing to change so that you are always improving.
Q. What is the Beef Jerky Experience signature jerky?
A. What makes us unique, besides the fact that we sell over 100 varieties ranging mild to hot to wild game, is that we have both a traditional dehydrated style as well as a smoked version which is much softer. Our most popular flavors are the prime rib, smoked cajun bbq brisket, and our smoked cherry maple beef.
Q. Anything new and notable you’d like use to share for the upcoming year
A. We are always working on new flavors so we may roll out a new flavor later this year. In addition, we will be expanding our non-jerky items including new items for vegetarians believe it or not. Finally, we will be looking at new ways to reward our loyalty customers.
(Q&A and concept by Donny Stancato)
(Photos supplied by Amy of Beef Jerky Experience)