Smack dab between Midtown and Automobile Alley on Hudson Avenue between N.W. 8th and 9th sits a small cinderblock building that was nothing more than an abandoned eyesore a few months ago.
Thanks to entrepreneur and beef jerky lover Doug Iske, the freshly-remodeled building is now the inviting storefront for his formerly online-only business, Jerky.
When the weather’s right, the shop’s large garage door is open wide to reveal the large collection of artisan food, mostly jerky made from almost every imaginable meat.
“As someone who is a glutton for projects,” he said, “I really liked the idea of taking an old, unused, eyesore of a building and turning it into something of value.”
Although the storefront is new, Iske is not new to selling jerky. Seven years ago, he started selling American-made (some Oklahoma-made) jerky at jerky.com, an online marketplace he founded for jerky enthusiasts. His aim was to sell exclusively high-quality jerky, made and packaged in America.
“Most people don’t know but some big name brands are made outside of the country with low quality meats and questionable ingredients,” Iske said. “I saw the opportunity to offer a high quality selection of jerky.”
Using all-natural, select cuts of meat and no hormones, added MSG or other preservatives, Iske strives to make the best product on the market.
“Quality is very important to us,” Iske said. “We wanted to offer something better than gas station jerky.”
A native of Nebraska, Iske started his company in Wichita Falls, Texas. He was drawn to Oklahoma City for its prospering business climate and skilled workforce. While moving here five years ago was a business decision, Iske already knew he felt right at home here in Oklahoma City.
“I’ve been visiting friends here for many years,” he said. “It reminds me of Omaha, only bigger. Good-hearted, friendly people with a strong sense of community.”
The store is representative of the trend of merging old architecture and design with the new. The rustic yet modern brick building sits by itself just a few yards north of the Oklahoma City Federal Building between 8th and 9th Streets. Despite starting off as what Iske describes as a non-descript office building, Jerky has created quite a welcoming brand for itself in the ranch-meets-urban design of the store.
“When it came time to open a store and officially establish roots for Jerky.com, I didn’t have to think about it very much,” he said. “Oklahoma City has become home for me and it’s the perfect home for Jerky.com.”
Since his background is in e-commerce, the idea of operating a store front location was not part of the original business plan. Iske was initially reluctant to open a traditional brick-and-mortar shop and take on the potential challenges that come with it.
“I liked working from home in my pajamas,” he confessed. “One of the advantages of having an online business is it can be run and operated almost anywhere I choose. But, opening a store changes all of that.”
As a result, the idea took some persuasion. For years, his friends had been saying he needed to sell his jerky at local events. When he finally came around to the idea, his first show was a sell-out hit.
“That first show was a lot of fun,” he said. “We got to meet customers and interact face-to-face.”
He continued doing shows and quickly developed a loyal customer following. He even created a custom-built jerky truck to drive to events like H&8th and Edmond’s Heard on Hurd.
“We had people asking all the time where they could buy our jerky locally,” he said. “It took me awhile but I finally got the idea.”
And so, the jerky business has its first physical location right in the heart of Oklahoma City. Okies can now hand-pick their favorite treats from a huge selection of meats and flavors. The most popular is, of course, their beef jerky. However, more adventurous tasters can sample exotic selections like wild boar, alpaca, salmon, alligator, ostrich or kangaroo. To add to the adventure, explore flavors like chipotle bourbon or buffalo wing. Their products aren’t only limited to meats; they even offer a pineapple jerky, a gluten-free line and quirky snacks like deep-fried peanuts that you eat shell and all.
“We are a one-stop shop for all things jerky,” said Iske, who is always crafting new product lines to offer his customers a product they’ll enjoy.
From a traditional style jerky to a softer, tender texture, jerky connoisseurs can find exactly what they are looking for or newbies can have a whole new jerky experience.
It might come to you as a surprise but not all jerky is the same. Much like barbecue varies greatly depending on its regional origin, jerky has four main styles that affect its texture and flavor. Most experienced jerky eaters have a particular expectation as to how their jerky should taste. Iske wants to make sure all his customers can have the delicious experience they are seeking. From a meat stick, slab-cut, traditional or beef jerky chew, they’ve got it all. Jerky’s friendly, knowledgeable staff will expertly help guide you through the many options.
Considering that Father’s Day is around the corner, Jerky just might be a unique solution for your hard-to-shop-for-dad. They offer customizable gift sets, boxes and bags with rustic, handcrafted touches that you can fill with a ton of options. Their most popular gift is a subscription to their jerky of the month club. Club members get to taste a new flavor every month, sent right to their door.
The club has three, six and 12-month options that start at around $40.
Browse the large selection online at www.jerky.com or head over to their store at 918 Hudson Ave. When you are out and about, keep an eye out their Jerky truck which is still a regular sight around the metro.