All Posts By

Dan Corbett

Buy-Local Christmas Ideas: #1

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Gift ideas One:  Knives for your Foody or for your Hunter?

Ninety-nine percent of the work I do in the kitchen can be done with a few knives.  It makes sense to have a few purpose-built good knives that have the right type of edge for what you want to do.  You can spend as much as you want on knives.  The sky is the limit.  But, if you know what you’re looking for, and what the differences are, you don’t have to spend a tremendous amount.  You buy them one at a time and use what you have at home to fill in the gaps.

Cheap knives (like anything else) look good (for a little while’, but they’re cheap).  The handles fall apart, the finish starts falling off, they rust, they chip (too brittle), they bend (to thin) they can be heavy, not weighted right, they can be a thick/heavy useless blade, you may have to sharpen them every time you use them, or they may be too hard (for you) to put an edge on them.  You can’t tell much when you try to buy online.

A few years ago I started buying knife sets for my friends who were celebrating major milestones (weddings, birthdays, thank-you’s). Grohman knives are reasonably priced for what you get at full-price.  Worth every penny.  If you take care of them, they WILL last a lifetime.   If you look at the ‘clearance’ section online, they are an incredible price.  I have bought many from the ‘clearance’ section of their page and I can’t see a flaw.

Being Nova Scotian and understanding the value of local purchase, I bought Grohman Knives for them (MADE in Pictou).  For Hunting Sets; I bought an ‘original design’, a ‘trout ’n  bird’, and a 7” filet.  I can field dress, skin, de-bone, and butcher just about anything in North America with those three knives.

For the Kitchen; there is no skinning, so I switched up for an ‘8” chef-knife’, ‘trout ’n  bird’, and a 7” filet.  Can’t go wrong with this set.  Here’s why:   

7-8” Filet: I use this for cleaning-up cuts of meat for preparation.  There is ‘some’ flex to the blade but I can use ‘just-enough’ pressure to debone, or ‘just-enough’ pressure to successfully remove the silver-skin from a beef Tenderloin or Brisket.

https://grohmannknives.com/index.php/clearance/final-sale-7-fillet-knife-detail

‘Trout and Bird’: This is a short-bladed rigid knife.  I use this one for cutting when I need extra control of the blade-tip.  (Short-blade=:more control)  Say, for example, hollowing out the fat-pocket of a brisket, cutting the breast off a chicken, head off a fish…  Also great for cutting small things (like using a paring knife): strawberries, cherry-tomatoes, cleaning vegetables…

https://grohmannknives.com/index.php/clearance/final-sale-reg-rswd-8-chef-detail

8” Chef:  The Master.  This blade ‘can’ do 90 % of the work.  If you were only going to buy one, go with this one.  It ‘can’ do the work the others do.  It’s just nice to have the short-one for tip-control, and the flexible-one for gliding between the different tissue-types, and super-fine slicing (like ceviche).  This is what we use the most: lettuce, crunchy-veg (carrots/peppers), onions, tomatoes, herbs, any meat, and fruit (typically softer) like limes, tomatoes, and plum.  https://grohmannknives.com/index.php/clearance/final-sale-reg-rswd-8-chef-detail

Just a thought. If you need advice on knives, it’s free. Just send us an email to info@smokedmeat.co

I am not sponsored by Grohman (yet), but I do support buying quality, local products. It helps our economy and you get a better product.

The Menu is Stable

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Yes we have it, if it’s on the menu. If not, shortly.

            A significant change in our menu (when we closed in October) led to stability in our offerings.  We had the sense that customers were frustrated with asking us IF we had a specific item in our fridge.  The decision was made to continually stock all items on the smaller menu and we have been successful thus far. 🙂

            We do ask that if a customer is coming in to ‘stock-up’, we would appreciate a little notice, if possible, so that we can continuously stock items or start making larger batches. We thank you so much for your patience.  Please reassure your friends that the new menu is stocked with healthy, convenient, locally-made food.  Menu is right Here.  Thank you.

Side Note: I will upload a menu with proper graphic design once I talk to the webmaster. This one has the right information but the presentation is lacking. Thank you for your patience.        

Car-Service Starting Again, November 22, 2020

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            Due to increasing numbers of Covid-19 Infections, we are now going to wear our own masks in the shop all day and encourage service in people’s cars (by running a menu out to you) if possible.  We are also happy to run the debit machine (with your order) out to you.  Our customer service area requires the use of masks and we must only have one customer at a time until further notice.  We will continue to sanitize all services between customers.  We offer debit or credit-card service at the door (at home or at your car) and we will deliver for free.  Given that this is a developing issue, we may have to set up delivery routes, but if that is what it takes to limit the spread of this infection, then that is what we’re going to do for you.

            This is obviously a precautionary step but we ALL MUST do everything we can to limit the spread of COVID-19.  We wish this inconvenience (at the shop) did not exist, but we will adjust by making it easier for you to order at home.  If you’re receiving this, you have our menu or you know you can locate it online.  HTTPS://Smokedmeat.CoWe will gladly deliver, for free, with all the protocols followed.  If we have so much more business that we need to hire a driver, then YOU have created another job.

Gift Certificates

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            We have gift certificates.  We are happy to sell gift certificates.  Any denomination you’d like, we can do it. They are a double-edged sword, though.  People purchase them before Christmas, sometimes, and they are putting cash-flow into the local business.  Cash-flow helps keep the economic wheel moving and we greatly appreciate it.  That’s the upside.

The other side of the gift certificate is that in January and February when the cash-flow has slowed to molasses pace, people still deserve to use their gift certificates.  It can be very hard on the business owner to buy the stock to fill the orders when the current-day cash-flow is low.  It seems like a simple solution: Don’t spend gift certificate money until gift-certificate purchases are made.  Easier said than done.  It’s not as though there is a pool of money we draw on and replenish these days.  It has been nine months of loss.  The hole is getting deeper for many businesses.

            If you must purchase gift certificates, as a convenient gift, please, please please don’t buy one for a chain business. They literally do not need your money. They’re fine. Your local economy depends on your local purchases.

For our customer’s confidence we’ll be establishing a separate fund to account for ‘gift-certificate money’ this season.  This will provide insurance to customers that if someone receives gift certificate, we will have a cash-out option in the event we need to close temporarily or completely.  That’s a reality we must responsibly face and we wanted you to be comfortable that if you purchase a gift card, it will be honoured.

Amazon Doesn’t Need You!

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But your local small business does.

            Any company that has a drive-through in this town (with the exception of Mike’s Drive-Through) doesn’t care about you.  Their doors are not going to close due to COVID-19, or ever.  They’ll be fine.  The mark-up on their products is incredible and they pay their staff minimum wage. Your money, for the most part, leaves the country let alone the town.  They don’t need you today to survive like your local economy does.  Other, less informed/less considerate people will keep them afloat.  They will survive just fine without you. But, we need you now more than ever.

            For the sake of your community, please put a halt to the idea that fast-food is the “only alternative” to cooking for yourself.  It is not.  Our community has a fantastic range of foods available: ‘North American-style ‘Chinese’’, authentic Chinese, Lebanese, ‘Italian’, Korean, Jamaican, Greek-influenced (‘donairs’), (Deli) Soup/Salad/Sandwich/Quiche, hand-made burgers/home-made fries, Rustic Foods (that may be us?), BBQ, pizza, bakeries, café’s, fish’n chip places… to name a few styles.  I’ll put us into ‘rustic foods made in a smoker’, if we need to be in a category.

These are not franchises where the ‘local owner’ takes home part of the profits.  They are ‘Mom and Pop’ businesses that started in order to serve you.  They need you.  These are examples of businesses owned and operated by local owners who buy from local producers, who source from local grocery stores or local warehouses, who spend their money, in turn locally, on the items they need to build and support their businesses.  It can be a beautiful circle.  You invest in us, we spend money locally to grow the business and make money move in our economy, the business grows, we serve you better.  Win-Win.  Right now, your local economy needs you more than ever.  Please consider the destination for your hard-earned money when you make purchases.

Amazon doesn’t need you.  It’s a great example.  Do you want Amazon to make a few dollars off you to ‘stay afloat’ this coming year?  Do you want your locally owned small business to exist when Covid-19 is over?  When you make your Christmas purchases this year, please consider if there is a local alternative to the exact item you want.  If it comes from a chain-store, please think about whether or not they need you to make that purchase.  Is there a local business that needs your business to survive?  Maybe you could go buy something they have (in stock or could order) so that they can ‘stay afloat’. 

It usually costs more to be small.  Our food cost, for example (because of quality standards and purchase quantity) is higher than drive-through food.  The food is not the same.  It’s barely similar.  Clothing is another business where ‘the same thing is available on Amazon, for cheaper’, but in making that purchase we are killing our local economy.  The price is higher because the small business pays more for the product due to purchase-order size.  I hear it all the time: ‘Only one pallet? (example: packaging) – the price is basically retail.’

Do you want to have the range of stores that we do?  Your local economy (OUR COMMUNITY) needs you now more than ever, to delay the purchase of the thing that you want, in order to improve the likelihood that your local economic drivers (small business) survives.  We (D&E’s) cannot survive without you. This is not a drill.

We Care About You

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            The people we seek to serve need fresh, convenient, healthy, delicious food to support their lives.  That’s the simple part.  We saw that there was a gap in the market when we were looking for food like ours, for ourselves.  [kids were very busy, both parents working, trying to eat healthy, always on the run for something]  We figured there must be more people with the same needs, so we walked the plank.

            We only seek to provide the ‘Service’: to fill that gap in the market… in the community.  The Service is to have fresh, healthy food (that you desire) available when and where you need it.  We are in the long-game.  Our plan is to take any money we make and invest it in the business, in order to provide better service to you.  We will stay focussed on continual improvement (of our menu, our delivery, and our price) in order to fill market gaps identified by you. 

            We are not buying an island in South America with all of our profits.  As in a true profit-sharing model, we reinvest ‘profit’ into the business to serve YOU better.  If the business grows, we serve you better.  We might make ‘a living’ one day, but there is virtually no chance of getting ‘rich’.

There’s also the looming question of: ‘who’s taking care of our elderly or less-fortunate’?  There’s a gap.  You’ll notice in times of emergency, there is no adjustment by most food-providers to help our community.  This really bothers us and it’s not the way we want to do business.  We’ve demonstrated that, many times.  We will do it again if we are called upon.

We haven’t seen any of the big drive-through companies drop their prices, start free deliveries to keep people at home, or provide balanced healthy meals.  Record profits from strategic advantages (drive throughs), huge marketing campaigns funded by soaring ‘need’ for convenient sustenance.  Do they care?  Is it ‘healthy (at all)? Is there a local benefit?

We believe we offer an alternative, and if it’s worthy, we’ll survive.

REAL Prices – We pay what you pay.

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            We pay what you pay for groceries.  No, seriously.  We thought that even a small restaurant like us would have some benefit of ‘bulk purchasing’, since we buy for the equivalent of 10 families per week… Nope.  Not the case.  A couple things we found out:  Since we use raw products (vegetables, unprocessed meats, basic ingredients like butter and oils) we are not in the ‘mass-purchase crowd’. 

Thirty blocks of butter, for $156.74 or $5.22/block (Same block as you buy at the store)

Raw products with short shelf-lives such as lettuce are hard to manage without loss.  It is a ‘just in time’ industry that we pay a premium for.  We actually pay MORE if we go through a distributor than retail pricing.  In my understanding, we actually pay more for these products in order to have ‘guaranteed supply’ and ‘traceability’.  Compare that to what you pay.

Carrots – 11.46/ 10 lb = $1.15

Romaine – $29.19/ 6 heads = $4.86

Leaf Lettuce – $17.20/ 6 heads = $2.86

Onions – $10.26/ 5 5lb = $2.05

Guaranteed supply is exactly what it sounds like.  If we want 4 cases of lettuce per week, we can’t guarantee that you can get them through a grocery store on the day that customers want.  We have to order through a distributor in order to have guaranteed supply.  We pay extra. 

Traceability is that the lot-numbers and locations of the facilities and their supplies are documented.  That’s preparation for recalls.  For example the common ‘romaine recall’.  In the event that the romaine (from a certain facility) is recalled, the distribution companies can trace who they sent what ‘lot’ to, and do a recall.  We pay extra for that. You can click on the images below to see the ‘per pound values and compare with what you pay. Pretty sure the ‘flyer’ is cheaper.

So, in reality, to keep costs down, we purchase most of our produce at the grocery store and pay what you pay.  If there is a recall that affects you at the grocery store, (in supply) it affects us.  If there is a recall that would affect us, you’ve already heard about it the same time we have, and there’s nothing we can do about that.

We will pay what we have to pay for the products you want.  We want to ensure, though, that our customers understand we do not have any purchasing power.  We pay what you pay.  The biggest advantage that we have over a chain is that we can be seasonal.  We can provide what’s in season, and we can buy the best local produce from a small producer.  That keeps money in our local economy and that affects all of us as much as eating healthy food.

The mass purchase crowd:            

If we bought pallets of frozen breaded chicken fingers, fries, chicken wings, deep fryer fat, frozen cooked burgers, pre-cooked steaks, frozen fish, hundreds of pounds of sandwich meat (per day), buckets of coleslaw, spaghetti sauce, flour, sugar, salt, powdered potatoes and gravy, barrels of soup…etc, we’d get a ‘deal’.  But, that’s not what we do. 

Interesting thought though…  When you see a Truck (with a big franchise LOGO) going down the road, that’s what they’ve done.  They have central purchasing and warehouse location where the pallets are dropped off (to get the price discount) and then they distribute to the stores.  Their purchasing power is so strong that they can own the warehouse, hire the warehouse staff, own the truck and hire the truckers, and then deliver their frozen crappy products to their store locations.  Never thought of it, but that’s how purchasing-power works.

A Call to industries that are flourishing: Long-term thinking.

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It seems the Real Estate industry is doing VERY well, locally.  So are car sales and home renovations businesses including retail sales for redecorating. I am sure industries like ‘personal protective equipment’, medical suppliers, insurance, shipping, and Amazon have flourished during this pandemic.  Record profits!

            If that is the case (and that’s a big IF), are these companies helping ‘prop-up’ industries that have gone without income for months?  Are they just going to let them crash? Is there a mechanism (or an incentive) for people to be financially generous in a time when they flourish? 

How does government stabilize this economy?  When “Industry A” makes money hand-over-fist, they pay taxes on it.  When “Industry B” is dying, they get ‘help’ from government (low-interest loans…etc.) that are ultimately paid-for by all of us.  What if “Industry A” could lower their ‘income’ by helping “Industry B” keep expenses down? 

Our example is shipping.  The shipping rates for our products are ridiculously expensive.  What if shipping companies received an incentive to help a struggling “B” – Businesses? If you have any suggestions on how to do this, please let us know.  We are looking for the flourishing company that we can exchange services with… e.g. ‘You pay less tax, I get help to ship my products (as a tax-shelter), and society is not strangled by paying back my ‘government help’ loans.

In our case, we found ways to be contributors to the greater community.  Rather than closing the doors and doing less work (and accepting the CERB), we buckled-down to provide thousands of meals to people who needed to stay home during early COVID-19 at COST.  We advertised and managed promotions for Meals on Wheels because it matters to the rest of our customers.  It felt great, and people appreciated it.  As demand declined (down to 20 meals per day), we decided delivery of the first-wave of help (we could provide) had been complete.

Covid-19 Rapid Testing – Gargle Test?

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I first heard about ‘Rapid Tests’ through National Public Radio (NPR) on a podcast and they were directing people here (https://www.rapidtests.org/) to learn more, months ago.  They were talking about tests that people take in the morning to find our if they are showing signs of ‘infection’ or ‘contagion’ of anything.  Someone would, for example, take the test, decide they will go to work or school, and follow the protocols.  If the test indicated someone was contagious, they would stay home, call the health authority, get a thorough medical test, and quarantine until they have the results.  The idea is to know when to ‘go about your business’, following appropriate precautions.  It was a decision-making tool.

            Rapid testing (at $1 or less each) was proposed, at that time, to help restart the economy.  To give people a sense of security to go back to our regular lives, a little.  The risk, from the government’s standpoint, is the risk of false negatives or a false sense of security.  The collective ‘sigh of relief’ that we normalize rapid tests would have been a comfort to so many.  If there was anything that could have brought people back to a sense of some normalcy, it would have been rapid testing, in just my opinion.  The opportunity, here, was to introduce the rapid testing as a decision-making tool.  

            Unfortunately the risk of false-security delayed the government approval.  The announcements have the tone of ‘find out quickly’, rather than ‘use this as a tool’.  I JUST wish people’s nerves were more calm.  People seem to be experiencing SO MUCH discomfort.  If we looked at the masks as ‘JUST’ a precaution that we use, after having self-tested (for a dollar, at home), wouldn’t the tone be different?

Approved October14, 2020.  https://globalnews.ca/news/7444445/canadian-covid-19-rapid-test-approved/

Why Rapid Tests Matter and Why Timing is critical.  https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/rapid-tests-biomedical-engineer-detect-active-infectious-phase-1.5760649

Approved November 10, 2020 https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-11-10/canada-to-buy-7-6-million-becton-dickinson-rapid-covid-tests

            I called this post ‘gargle test’ because I just heard the Premier (Stephen MacNeil) talking about gargle tests being used for kids in daycare facilities? 

Liz just asked why I think this is our business.  Here’s my answer:  ‘I just wish the tone would change’.  I think a lot of our customers are still at home self-isolating.  I have several friends with underlying health conditions who have hardly left their home in the last NINE (9) MONTHS.  If it was potentially safer out there, (people self-testing each day before they interact with others) they might be able to carry-on with some aspect of their regular life without being scared.  They are relying on their friends and family for a lot of small supply runs, they have groceries delivered, and they have restaurant ‘food’ delivered.

Isolation, in my own experience, is not natural and it’s not good for me.  If the only input I have is what’s in my head it’s easy to convince myself I am right.  My interpretation of ‘the world’ is the only one I see, and sometimes I’m wrong…  Without someone to ‘check-me’, I can convince myself of many things that aren’t reality. 

I need connection.

            As we go into the holiday season, there is a potential of added stress for people who need to travel, can’t travel, are worried about someone who travels…etc.  Wouldn’t it be nice to lower that stress? Find ways to gather?  Hence the importance of the rapid test.  Our families test at home, get together, and then get up and test the next day.  We don’t share glasses or sneeze in each others’ face on purpose, but if it did happen, at least we’d know that the people surrounding us had a test this morning.  It might make it easier to get together… 

OUTREACH: Teachers and Nurses (long one)

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Spring:

            Even in the early part of COVID-19 Infection, we saw who stepped up to change the way they do work.  Health Care Facilities have to stay open and the people that work there have to adapt to work during COVID-19.  It’s stressful and frustrating.  Teachers had to immediately adapt to providing classes online.  No training.  No help to adapt. Just ‘make it happen’.  They stepped up, and many of us struggled to help our kids with school, at home, while teachers scrambled to adapt to a new way of teaching.

            Teachers working at home who are also parents, adapted like many of us working at home.  It was frustrating but they made it work.  Nurses dealt with an increased workload (intense hospital protocols) and then came home and parented as best they could.  Suffice to say there were a lot of people who came home from a stressful job and dealt with kids that had been home all day with not-much to do.

Summer:

As this evolved, ‘school’ came to an end and the kids were off for the summer.  Most of their summer activities were cancelled.  Many families that have access to summer cottages took off for the summer.  This is part of our regular business cycle.  The business (sales) shortfall is usually counteracted by tourism sales.  Tourism sales, for us, are get-togethers, and new customers coming through town as they visit our beautiful province.

In our case, the tourists did not arrive.  People were arriving at their cottage for the summer, self-quarantining, and then making minimal trips other than very basic groceries.  One trip for supplies, back to the cottage, repeat.  Since tourism was essentially cancelled this year, we didn’t see the normal sales to expanding markets.  We were incredibly busy with VON meals (at cost), so we were not going into extreme debt, but working really hard to stay afloat.

The Fall:  (appropriate term!)

            We had hoped that the success of the ‘Atlantic Bubble’, the success of keeping COVID numbers the lowest in the world would encourage people to go back out and support local business.  What we have seen is that our two largest sectors (teachers and nurses) did not resume their regular shopping pattern.  In talking with people in these careers, they said:  ‘we go to work (under very stressful circumstances) and we go home’.  ‘We go out for supplies, and we go home’. 

It seems the ‘extra stop’ at D&E’s has not been on their mind.  In other sectors such as government offices and office-based private businesses, people either follow the same pattern or they continue to work at home.  Working at home has allowed people to take the time cook for themselves.  That is understandable and we’re glad people are learning to experiment in their own kitchen.  We’re here to help if they would like to use some of our products in their home cooking.

Our sales, however, fell dramatically over September/October last year.  To adjust for this we needed to take hints from the information above.  Nurses, teachers, and anyone working at an office continue to go to work.  They go to work, and go home, sometimes with a stop along the way for supplies.  Non-essential travel has been kept to a minimum.  This may be one of the ways COVID has been kept to a minimum in our region.  Going forward, as COVID numbers spike in other parts of North America, we need to be diligent and continue to minimize our risk of exposure.  We thank you for this new habit.

OUR SOLUTION (Please see attached menu):

The hint that we get from the above information above is that these people (our former customers) are stressed and we need to accommodate their currently stressful lives.  Let’s make it easier for people to get healthy, delicious food at home.  No extra stops, no decisions to be made.  Take your time.  Do it online, we will deliver for free. 

We developed a new menu that has 5 standardized meal combos.  They are always available.  It’s a streamlined process.  …’I would like two Pad Thai and Two Brisket Combos’.  .’Perfect.  Here you go.  Thank you’. 30 seconds – by phone, by web order, in person.  Thirty. Seconds.

We also developed a ‘meat-box’ concept that can be ordered online to suit your needs, renewed without any decisions if the customer would like, and delivered for free.  We are trying to make this as touchless and simple as we can for you.  This menu has been sent out to hospital administration and schools.  We hope to be reintroduced to these segments of the population SO THAT they know we do not take them for granted.  That we see they are stress, and that we see they are doing the best they can to operate as normal under very abnormal conditions.  We are here to help.