When out on a long hike around the lake, camping in Desolation Wilderness or tearing down the slopes of Tahoe’s ski resorts, it’s important to take plenty of water and hearty snacks.
Tahoe Truckee Jerky’s Tim Brown, who everyone knows as “Timbo,” recognized how well beef jerky pairs with outdoor activities. With his background as a butcher, chef and owner of Zano’s Family Italian & Pizzeria in Truckee, Brown knows meat and realized how he could fill a niche by providing protein-chocked tender and tasty snacks to outdoor enthusiasts.
Brown moved to North Lake Tahoe in 1991 to ski Squaw Valley and like many never left: “I moved here for one winter of skiing and now I’m stuck,” he says.
Aside from skiing, Brown also cooked and managed restaurants including Jake’s On the Lake, Gar Woods Pier & Grill and Riva Grill. He opened Zano’s 18 years ago. Along with the restaurant, he inherited the big red caboose parked in front of the restaurant on Donner Pass Road; it used to be a high-speed Union Pacific train car. Now off the rails, the caboose serves as Jerky Junction, an outlet for the 30 to 40 jerky varieties sold there. Brown’s three teenagers run the space when they’re not in school.
Jerky Junction is stocked with tender, mouth-watering, dried-meat snacks ranging from its best-selling teriyaki beef to more interesting selections such as ostrich, Mako shark and rabbit.
The popular traditional or exotic meat selections are distributed at about 300 locations and sold at Boreal Mountain Resort, Northstar California and Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows. He came up with a recipe called Squaw Candy that is a popular dried salmon jerky.
“It sells out so fast, I can barely keep it in stock,” Brown says.
Brown became serious about selling jerky about three years ago when he found a manufacturing plant in Carson City, Nev. He came up with about 10 jerky recipes in the beginning, but has since expanded the business to include dozens of different varieties. He enjoys playing with flavors and marinades. He sources good local beef, but exotic meats such as venison, elk and buffalo have also caught people’s attention. His personal favorite is the Whiskey Rabbit.
Tahoe Truckee Jerky also has an impressive presence online; people who discover the jerky are likely to go back and tell their friends about it and buy more. The company also ships jerky to military members based all over the world. The most popular jerkies are teriyaki, black pepper, and sweet and sour versions.
“They sell like crazy,” he says.
Jerky Junction is open year-round and tourists regularly go in and buy one to two bags for themselves, then return to buy more bags for family and friends.
“A couple will come here, buy some jerky, take it back to New York and then their friend calls me up the next week and orders 30 bags of it,” Brown says. “The caboose is good for gifts and local products. We also sell sauces and honey —Al Bees and Mother Lode.”
Next, Timbo wants to take his jerky business to the next level and will be approaching larger distributors to help him get his jerkies out in more places. He also plans debuting an all-natural line of organic, high-end meats.
Although he may be busy running Zano’s and Tahoe Truckee Jerky, Timbo still finds time to go skiing — and it gives him a good reason to spread his product.
“[Jerky’s] the best thing to tip with,” he says. | tahoetruckeejerky.com