You wouldn’t expect an international food company to be operating out of a nondescript building in the industrial section off Bishop Lane. But you wouldn’t expect Vegan Jerky to be the key product of an international business.
What’s more, you wouldn’t really expect a guy like Stanley Chase III to be the architect of a company bringing international attention to Louisville.
Four years ago, Chase started the business from the small kitchen at the Clifton Center, making 100 bags a week. After a couple of temporary manufacturing locations, including what is now The Post in Germantown, Chase is selling his jerky in 25 states and several foreign countries.
What’s more, he’s started a Jerky of the Month Club, in which you can subscribe and have a box of jerky delivered to your home every month, a la the Dollar Shave Club.
“We’re producing over 20,000 bags a month now and hoping to grow even bigger,” Chase says. We met after hours in his warehouse on Pinewood Road, where he employs 11, including several family members.
And while Stanley Chase believes his company’s growth is a major success, he speaks in humble tones about it.
“That even sounds like, 20,000 bags, when I see relatives or old friends around, and they knew where I was at selling 100 bags a month, it is a crazy number. But in the production and manufacturing world, the snack world, you never realize how much people eat until you get into this business and see how big the world is.”
Today he says his product is in about 600 stores in 25 states, plus international locations in such places as Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Canada.
Chase has a keen sense of humor, along with a knowledge of business. He realized his original idea for branding, called What a Jerky, was limited in appeal.
“I had no intention of building a national brand,” he says of his early bag design. “It was silly. I had Judas, from the Bible, and other people known as jerks. The idea at first was to be playful, cartoony, a humor brand. I kinda got bored with that real quick and in the big picture, I didn’t see people gravitating toward it.”
So along came the current idea, to put lesser-known Louisville icons on the bags. Baseball’s Pete Browning, Louisville Public Library founder Reuben Durrett, and horror movie director Tod Browning are among those featured on bags.
“Nobody takes Vegan food that serious in the first place so I wanted something that was a little bit serious on the bags,’ said Chase. “They’re like Louisville legends that have been forgotten. They’re really cool people who have done a lot for the city.”
As for the growth of his company, Chase believes his company has a long way to grow.
“We have grown at a calculated pace. That’s one thing I pride myself on,” Chase said. “I do take risks, I love that. I make people very nervous. but I don’t go off impulse and intuition. I’m very calculated.”
And the product, made from textured soy protein, is still hand-bagged off Bishop Lane.
“Everybody knows jerky to be dried meat, but this looks and tastes and feels like dried meat,” he said. “Their expectations are so low it’s hard not to meet them. People are so surprised they immediately tell their friends about it.”
You can listen to Stanley Chase III in the EatDrinkTalk podcast on Friday, August 5.