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Jack Link’s shows off Wild Side retail store

Updated: November 21, 2017 - 10:38 am

The jerky company has opened a retail concept in the Target Center

Jack Link’s Protein Snacks is showing off a new side to its jerky business with “Wild Side,” a retail store that opened in early November in the Target Center skyway.

The 1,000-square-foot retail concept offers bags of the brand’s signature beef jerky, plus a dozen or so other varieties of protein snacks, and an array of other merchandise meant to capitalize on the popularity of the company’s products and its mascot, Sasquatch.

“This is trying to immerse people into the experience of Jack Link’s,” Chief Marketing Officer Tom “TD” Dixon said during the store’s soft opening. “You obviously see jerky, but, most importantly, you also see how our brand comes to life.”

Jack Link’s envisions Wild Side as a place for hungry office workers to grab a quick bite of protein with the company’s line of jerky, which in recent years has expanded with a wider selection of meats and flavors. Fans of the snacks won’t find just one kind, but nearly all of the company’s jerky varieties, from Applewood smoked breakfast bacon — a product designed to give snackers protein in the morning —to flame-grilled steakhouse beef jerky.

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DSC_3478 webBeyond the snacks, Wild Side features products “for your lair,” such as wooden “Sasquatch Crossing” signs, Sasquatch lamps and even Sasquatch alarm clocks. Dixon said the company wanted to bring unique, “treasure hunt” sort of items to the store, which offers “Sasquatch Patrol” water bottles, Sasquatch playing cards and Sasquatch cribbage boards. “Wear your wild side” T-shirts and other apparel designed around the brand are also available.

Dixon said the skyway location in the newly renovated city-owned arena, an “artery for all the downtown life,” will give them access to Minnesota Timberwolves and Lynx fans who can shop at the store on game days. The company has partnered with the teams before, including a recent ad campaign featuring Sasquatch working out with Timberwolves player Karl-Anthony Towns.

Jack Link’s is already planning to expand the Wild Side concept to other cities, including Las Vegas and cities like New York City and Orlando. Dixon said they hope to begin opening additional stores in the next year or so.

Wild Side is open 11 a.m.–6 p.m. Monday through Friday and noon–6 p.m. on Saturday with extended hours during Target Center events. It’s closed on Sundays. It officially opened Thursday, Nov. 9 and will get a grand opening in next week.

The retail concept is just one side of the business Jack Link’s is looking to develop. Just across the street, the company is currently building out a new office, innovation center and restaurant.

In a new research and development test kitchen, the company will test out new products and offer them to the public to try out and give feedback. Currently Jack Link’s has a pilot plant at the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus, in addition to labs in other cities. Wes Castelsky, the company’s executive research and development chef, said they’re testing out more products, such as leaner salmon jerky, to appeal to other kinds of consumers.

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DSC_3417 copy webAt a media preview in November, the brand showed off culinary uses for the jerky products, from a Bloody Mary shaken with Jack Link’s Original Chew to a quiche made with pepper-infused jerky. The company didn’t disclose any new information on its restaurant concept, but that is slated for a space at 6th & Hennepin in Mayo Clinic Square.

“There is a lot of culinary expertise that goes into making our product. It’s a lot more than just dried meat,” Castelsky said.

Dixon said the research and development center is expected to open at the end of the first quarter next year.

Jack Link’s employees will begin moving to the Mayo Clinic Square office in December. The new office space has room for up to 300 employees, which Dixon said leaves them with space for the growing company to expand.

Dixon said their budding brand presence and product lines have led Jack Link’s to expand beyond just its original product.

“All of that really culminates in us becoming more than just a beef jerky company, but really becoming a protein snacking company,” he said.