BY JOHN CROPLEY
Gazette Business Editor
LATHAM — There’s a new outlet in town, but without the endless racks of clothing where the one thing you want never seems to be available in your size.
Instead, it features dried meat.
Two veteran educators and a local businessman have opened the doors on New York’s first Beef Jerky Outlet, part of a growing franchise devoted to the ever-popular high-protein snack food. The store at 640 New Loudon Road had a soft opening four weeks ago and a grand opening Feb. 18.
The store is all about jerky, and not just beef jerky — there’s also kangaroo, alligator, venison, salmon and elk jerky.
Counting texture and flavor variations, more than a hundred varieties of jerky are in stock. There’s also an array of condiments and an assortment of snack foods.
The store is owned by Mike Kinnally, a Guilderland teacher; Joseph Duffy, a BOCES principal; and a silent partner.
Kinnally said the seed was planted during a vacation to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where his family noticed signs for a local Beef Jerky Outlet franchisee. “I said ‘This place is too cool,’ ” he recalled Tuesday. “We dropped probably 80 bucks in that jerky store.”
It was a foregone conclusion that he and his son would like the store; the test was what the other half of the family thought.
“My wife and daughter loved it,” Kinnally said.
When he got home, he told the two friends about the national chain, which didn’t have any locations in New York. Their application to open the first in this state was accepted. The company plans to add more stores here in the future.
Along with teaching for 27 years, Kinnally has been a longtime soccer coach and organizer — he founded FC Dutchmen Premier soccer club in Guilderland and is its director of coaching and programs. He has no retail or entrepreneurial experience, but he’s had ambitions for a while.
“I’ve always wanted to be in some kind of business,” he said. “I always thought that would be neat to do as a family.”
So far their Beef Jerky Outlet has been just that, a family operation: The partners and their families are running the store on a rotating schedule, and their few employees are people they know from soccer programs.
All three partners were born and raised in the Capital Region, Kinnally in Niskayuna, so they have connections beyond those that their soccer and education experiences have provided.
Kinnally said it has been nice in the first weeks to see such a wide variety of people from across the region walk into his store. He can usually point them toward something they’ll like in his inventory — spicy, sweet, smoky or salty, soft or hard.
This latter choice is important for the business, as beef jerky has a reputation — sometimes accurate — as hard to chew. Beef Jerky Outlet actually has two factories, one dedicated to producing easier-to-chew jerky, Kinnally explained.
“We have just as many of the softer versions from Michigan as well as the traditional versions from Tennessee,” he said.
Looking ahead to the warmer months, the store plans events such as hot sauce-tasting contests, and sells an array of barbecue rubs and spices.
So it’s more than a jerky store, Kinnally said — something of a jerky-themed country store — but jerky is still at the heart of it all, and the store has found an audience during its debut.
“It’s hopping,” he said. “The support locally has been phenomenal.”