TULALIP — Walk into the Tulalip Beef Jerky Outlet, and there’s a good chance that owner Tom Miller will try to give you a guided tour.
The store isn’t actually that big, since it occupies but one of the suites at Quil Ceda Village, but it’s packed with what Miller estimates to be 200 options of jerky, plus plenty of complementary snacking products.
“We wanted this place to have the feel of a general store, because it offers such a wide variety,” said Miller, who noted that the Tulalip store is not only the first Beef Jerky Outlet on tribal grounds, but also the first one west of the Rocky Mountains.
That variety of jerky ranges from dry to marinated, and from mild to hot, from a veritable zoo of different animals, in all sorts of seasonings.
“Our prime rib jerky is probably our most popular, since it’s not too spicy and it practically tastes like steak,” Miller said. “My favorite is the three-beer rub jerky, because it’s got a very understated flavor, that doesn’t overwhelm you.”
The Tulalip Beef Jerky Outlet also sells seasonings, sauces and rubs separately, from mesquite to teriyaki, with temperatures promising on the package to be “blazing,” “colon cleaners” or simply “fire,” for those looking to make their own jerky. Its assortment of jerky meats includes venison, elk, buffalo, ostrich, alligator, kangaroo and bear.
In back, a refrigerated section offers almost as many smoked meats, including bison, as well as cheese curds. You can even sample chili peppers, among them the intimidatingly named “Carolina Reapers,” but be warned that the store keeps plenty of bottles of Dasani in stock for a reason.
“It’s got a delayed reaction to it,” Miller laughed.
Miller is enthusiastic about showcasing the Beef Jerky Outlet’s other options, whether it’s vegetarian fare such as Amish popcorn, dried fruits, veggie chips, honey sticks or fried okra, or even if it’s stranger fare, such as fried larvae, chocolate-dipped crickets or sweet suckers with ants inside of them.
But what clearly gets him giddy is giving prospective customers samples of jerky, from cherry maple smokey mountain to moonshine and sweet bourbon, with turkey and even salmon jerky from Woodinville rounding out its eclectic melange.
“We’re not just selling products, but creating experiences,” Miller said. “It’s like wine-tasting.”
Ask him about the bacon jerky, and he’ll invite you to smell it for the hint of maple, before you bite into it. His opinion of lemon pepper jerky? “A good mix, that’s not super-hot.” If you’re wondering whether Cajun, jalapeño or sweet-and-spicy jerky is for you, not only will Miller let you have a free taste of each, but he can speak about each one from a position of expertise. He’ll tell you the jerky market has grown 46 percent since 2009, and that jerky is at least as popular with women as with men.
“It fits right in with a Paleo diet, because it’s very healthy,” Miller said. “It’s very low in carbs, is gluten-free and has no MSG.”
With the number of hunters and tourists in the area, thanks to the store’s proximity to I-5, Cabela’s and Home Depot, Miller anticipates his current employee crew of five could grow to seven, so that there would be between two to three employees on the floor during busy shifts.
“I want us to work with people in a hands-on way,” Miller said.
The Tulalip Beef Jerky Outlet is in Suite D at 8825 34th Ave. NE, and will conduct its official grand opening ribbon-cutting at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 12. Ten percent of the day’s proceeds will be donated to the Union Gospel Mission for the homeless.