Kangaroo, alligator and elk are just a few of the exotic jerky flavors that one new store near campus offers.
Tommy’s Jerky & Smokie Outlet store, a company that originated in Chardon, Ohio, opened its Columbus location’s doors Nov. 15, marking its place as the first-ever jerky spot on campus.
Robert Nicholson, owner of nine Tommy’s Jerky and Smokie Outlet stores, including the one near campus, said the store’s location across the street from the Ohio Union is a prime spot for business.
“I feel like the students and faculty here at Ohio State are jerky lovers, and giving them options and choices for a great snack that’s really convenient (and) really healthy would really respond well to that (location),” Nicholson said. “Being on campus makes it easier for students to find us, which is great, and having the Union nearby makes it easier to direct people to the store.”
Tommy’s Jerky & Smoky Outlet store is associated with the Nicholson Center, a nonprofit organization “that provides employment and training for adults with developmental disabilities or special needs.” Nicholson opened the Warren, Ohio-based center in February 2009 while he was a student at OSU, and he said its mission is the reason he got involved with Tommy’s.
“I wanted to create employment opportunities for people with disabilities to work in the community, and so I started working with Tommy, and that’s how I got the seven stores relatively quickly — essentially a franchise operation,” Nicholson said. “Tommy’s has been the most successful venture I’ve had at creating jobs for people with disabilities.”
Tommy Baker, president and CEO of Tommy’s Jerky Outlet, said customer satisfaction is a priority for him.
“The experience would be serving them on a personal level and on a product level and at the end of the day, they bought something that they like and met people they can trust,” he said.
Shoppers who enter the store are greeted and surrounded by a variety of 50 different jerkies and smokies. Guests are encouraged to sample anything in the store to prevent them from buying something they don’t like.
Teriyaki and barbecue are standard flavors when it comes to jerky, but Tommy’s also offers customers more exotic jerkies, such as elk, kangaroo, alligator, salmon and buffalo. For hot lovers, ground zero is a popular choice.
Mark LaHue, a third-year in finance, said he had never seen a beef jerky store before Tommy’s hit campus.
“It was great,” LaHue said. “I love how they allowed me to try multiple ones because when you look at a bag of beef jerky you don’t know, unless you make it, what you are getting. So I probably just tried just six or seven of them moving up (the) Scoville scale of peppers, but it was great. I ended up with Afterburner jerky.”
The Scoville scale of peppers is used to measure the spicy heat of chili peppers.
The prices of regular jerky and smokies range from $8.99 to about $24 depending on the size, and the exotic jerkies are $14.99.
It is not just the wide variety of jerky that makes Tommy’s jerky stand out among the rest, it is the quality, Baker said.
“No fillers, high in protein, very, very low sodium and no fat at all — that’s what makes it (Tommy’s jerky) different,” Baker said. “It’s made fresh and ready to order, not just sitting at a warehouse for a month.”
Nicholson also said the quality of jerky in the store is different from more commercial brands.
“So when you think of beef jerky, you think of a Slim Jim, and the quality differences in a Slim Jim and Tommy’s is prestige,” he said. “So you drive a Maserati and you drive an Edsel, you are like, ‘Oh, there is a difference in cars.’ Well, there is a difference in jerky, too.”
Individuals at the Nicholson Center make different products, with candles as the first and most successful product, Nicholson said. These candles and other future products such as salsa can be found and bought at Tommy’s Jerky and Outlet Store, too.
Nicholson nor Vince Yoder, the general manager, disclosed information about the cost of the location.
Tommy’s Jerky & Smokie Outlet is located at 1758 N. High St.