By Michilea Patterson, The Mercury
LIMERICK >> When it comes to the more than 200 varieties available at The Beef Jerky Outlet; the jerky may be dry but not the flavors. From lemon pepper beef to Cajun brisket, there’s a jerky spice for just about every meat lover.
With a recent addition to the Philadelphia Premium Outlets in Limerick, locals can now enjoy jerky in all kinds of flavors and made from several types of meat. Husband and wife Ben and Ellen Nonnemacher, of Exeter, opened the local Beef Jerky Outlet earlier this month. The Tennessee-based outlet is the first national jerky franchise in the U.S. There are 76 franchise locations and now Limerick is one of them.
The spark to open a local jerky outlet began last year when Ellen visited the franchise while in West Virginia. She thought her husband Ben would like the products and purchased some.
“So the first product that I had ever brought was actually the spices to make your own jerky … Never did I think when I bought that spice kit that we would own a store,” she said.
Ellen said around that time she and her husband were ready for a change in their careers and that her husband had a very entrepreneurial mind set. It was important that whatever business they decided to choose, it aligned with their personal fundamentals. Ellen said she and her husband liked that The Beef Jerky Outlet is owned and operated in the U.S., therefore creating local jobs.
Another big plus is that the store allows them to show appreciation for local service men and women. There’s a space dedicated in the store called the Wall of Honor where military members can bring in their badges to be displayed. Any active or retired military member, first responder, or law enforcement receives a discount when they visit the local outlet. Customers can also show their support by donating food products from the outlet to be shipped overseas to troops.
“We honor, we respect, and we appreciate everything they do,” Ellen said.
The jerky outlet will partner with the local chapter of Project Healing Waters which is an organization that helps disabled active military members and veterans. Ben is a committee member of the organization while his father is on the board.
“It’s just something really close to my heart,” he said.
The local jerky outlet may have opened less than a month ago but it’s already creating quite a buzz. There’s constant traffic at the store all day long. It’s not unusual to hear people laughing and sharing their appreciation of the unique flavors.
“We truly enjoy meeting all of our guests that walk in. It’s surprising how many personal stories we hear,” Ellen said.
“It’s the grown-up candy store,” said store associate Beckey Mayberry.
Owners Ben and Ellen believe part of the popularity of the store is from people being more aware of healthy eating options. Jerky is a “nutrient-dense meat that has been made lightweight by drying,” according the United States Department of Agriculture. The low-fat, lean protein product is a great on-the-go snack option.
Ellen and Ben have a nine-year-old daughter who they encourage to make healthy eating choices. Since they’ve opened the store, the family has been swapping some of their sweet treats with a jerky snack option. Ben’s sister Jessica Thomas and her husband are part owners of the local outlet in Limerick. Ben said his sister is a nutritionist and pharmacist.
“She looked into all this product and she said ‘this is really good stuff,’” he said.
The jerky comes in two main forms; dehydrated and smoked. The dehydrated version is more dry, while smoked jerky has more moisture and is tender. Ben said all the dehydrated versions of the jerky are nitrate-free. He said there are also low-sodium options for people with high blood pressure. The Biltong products sold at the outlet originated in South Africa and the meat is air-dried.
“What’s amazing about that product is there are only four ingredients in it,” Ben said adding that the jerky only contains beef, sugar, salt and spice.
“There’s a little something for everybody in here,” he said.
One of the best aspects of the outlet is that there’s a “try them before you buy them” attitude. Ellen said since there are so many varieties, they want customers to find a flavor they love before purchasing something. There are sample barrels throughout the store for people to enjoy while browsing. The flavors are seemingly endless. There’s even jerky that’s named after alcoholic beverages like Bloody Mary Beef and Moonshine Corn Whisky Beef.
For the more adventurous customers, there’s jerky made out of exotic meats like kangaroo, ostrich and alligator. The outlet even sells edible bugs like crickets, ants and worms. Other products available at the store include candy-flavored popcorn, spices, sauces and more.
The fun party-like atmosphere and wide variety of jerky will keep customers coming back for more and more. The store will have an official grand opening early next year but have several upcoming events on the schedule for this year. On Friday, they will participate in a Halloween Spooktacular event at the outlets. Then for Veterans Day weekend, they will have a Deer Widows Weekend geared toward the female hunter.
For more information about the local Beef Jerky Outlet, visit the website philly.beefjerkyoutlet.com/index.php or the Facebook page www.facebook.com/BJOPhillyOutlets. The store is located at the Philadelphia Premium Outlets, 18 W. Lightcap Road, near the Nike Factory outlet.