Like many successful artisanal food purveyors, Kings County Jerky, a Brooklyn-based company that's done quite well selling 2 ounce bags of jerky for $10 a pop at places like Smorgasburg, is facing a crisis of demand. The East Williamsburg-based company has attracted interest from wholesalers that want to distribute the jerky nationally, but their current operation can't fill the orders. Luckily, the company recently won a $50,000 grant from the city, which the owners are putting toward expanding their production... in Pennsylvania.
Kings County will soon be able to quadruple its production by working with another jerky producer in the Keystone State. "We're maxed out where we're at right now, and we would have to move to an entirely new space to meet demand," explains co-founder and CEO Chris Woehrle (who used to design CD booklets). The Pennsylvania facility will "help supplement what we're doing now so we can wholesale our product," according to Woehrle.
There's a certain irony in a Brooklyn-branded artisanal business funneling taxpayer money to workers in Pennsylvania (couldn't they at least work with Vermont?), but Woehrle says he has no choice. We asked him why he didn't keep all his production here in NYC, and he told us, "That's the biggest thorn in everyone's side in the NYC production scene. Once you get to a certain point where you're getting interest on a national level, there is no co-packing support, which is where you get someone to make your product for you to your specifications. Everyone would prefer to keep everything in Brooklyn—if there were facilities here, we would stay with them."
To that end, Woehrle says he's been working with the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce to try to make it easier for a new facility to open locally. "There is a lot of political will to keep manufacturing in Brooklyn and New York; the problem is it's not feasible to build out the infrastructure it takes to do it all here. So I've been working with the city to create a mid-size food manufacturing facility in Brooklyn, and went up to Albany with the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce to meet with lawmakers."
Woehrle says they were receptive, and he remains optimistic that such a facility could be feasible given the right incentives. We certainly look forward to the day when small-batch Brooklyn purveyors can keep their products 100% Brooklyn-based, with no icky additives from outside Kings County polluting our pure, artisanal bloodstreams. Until then, we'll be hiding in our climate-controlled Brooklyn Bubble drinking bottled Brooklyn water and spooning Brooklyn mayonnaise from a jar, hiding from the rest of mass-produced America.