Love for childhood snack prompts local family to open beef jerky shop

By KATE LUDLOW

Bill Wolesensky puts the strips of beef jerky into the smoker at Mahlon the Butcher Beef Jerky. (Photo by Kate Ludlow)

Everybody has a childhood snack they remember fondly, but few people base an entire business around it. Mahlon the Butcher Beef Jerky is founded on a childhood love for one butcher’s jerky, and now the owners are on a mission to bring that jerky to the rest of the country.

Bob and Bill Wolesensky grew up in Nebraska. The neighborhood butcher, known as Mahlon the Butcher, used to sell beef jerky out of his storefront. As the Wolesneskys grew up and began travelling, they realized they couldn’t find a comparable jerky anywhere they went.

“He made it his mission to bring the same jerky to the world. Our goal was to start the USDA plant, and then sell across the United States,” said Bob’s wife, Tyree.

Bob also works for a company that sells sports flooring, gym floors, running tracks, and more, and when his company was bought out by another company based in Leander, Bob and Tyree settled in Liberty Hill with their children Christine, 16, Bobby, 13, and Corey, 11. Bill and his wife, Kris, were both college professors in mathematics, with Bill holding a Doctorate of Mathematics, and Kris holding a Master’s of Mathematics. Bill taught at Doane College in Crete, Nebraska, the same town where Mahlon was from. The four decided to make the dream a reality, and went in together to learn the process of making beef jerky the old fashioned way.

They immediately contacted Mahlon the Butcher.

“I think it took him a while to come around, but eventually he was excited. He had been approached several times by major chains and such, but it was always in a ‘you set it all up’ way. We were the first to approach him and say that we wanted to set up the plant,” said Tyree.

The first three recipes they started with came from Mahlon – Old School, Feisty Teriyaki, and the Polka Dot Hot.

“Mahlon came down, and trained us. Bill went up to Nebraska and did some training with him there. Mahlon had a big part in getting us going,” she said.

The Wolesneskys expanded the flavor line-up to include five more types of jerky – Ragin’ Hot Cajun, Peppy Black Pepper, Tasty Teriyaki, Hickory BBQ and Sweet ‘N Heat BBQ.

When it comes to making the jerky, the Wolesneskys try to keep their ingredients as local as possible.

“We get our beef from a distributer in San Angelo. Our seasoning comes from a company in Round Rock,” Tyree said.

And though their methods may be more time-consuming, their dedication to the craft is what sets their jerky apart from others brands.

“We don’t want to lose consistency and taste, and that’s what can happen when you try to do larger batches. We don’t tumble our beef in the seasonings, which is what a lot of companies do,” she said. “Water is not the second ingredient on the package, and that’s what happens when you’re tumbling the beef in water.”

The Wolesneskys start with cuts of inner round. T is the most tender of the roast cuts, and because it is the largest, single muscle in the cow, it’s a perfect cut for smoking. The meat is quartered, flash frozen, and then sliced into strips. Each batch of strips is placed in a marinade of whichever seasonings they are using for it, and left to soak in the flavors for 48 hours. The strips are then handstrung onto smoking racks, and placed in a smoker for five hours.

The smoker is, at first glance, a rather unusual piece of equipment, but you can tell that Bill’s mathematical background comes in handy when dealing with it.

The smoker is loaded with hickory chips, then the rack of jerky strips is placed in a large closed area. Bill uses a hot dog as the “test meat” due to its thickness. The hot dog provides the most accurate temperature reading of meat located inside the smoker. There is a digital readout of the “house temperature,” the temperature of the smoking area, the meat temperature, and a humidity level readout. Those numbers are recorded on a data log, a circular graph kept on the side of the machine.

After smoking, the jerky is packaged, labeled and ready to hit the shelves. The Wolesneskys see a good amount of business at their storefront location on Old 2243 West in Leander, but have jerky will travel.

Mahlon’s jerkey is sold at Market Days in Georgetown, festivals in Taylor, and a number of other events. Soon, they will open a kiosk in Lakeline Mall, enabling them to sell their jerky to weary shoppers in need of a snack.

“We’re ready to take our product to the masses,” said Tyree.

Right now, they are producing two to three batches of jerkey per day, but have room to expand. They are working to ensure that while they grow, the quality and consistency of their product never suffers.

“We want it to taste exactly the same, every time,” she said.

Mahlon the Butcher Beef Jerky is available for sale at their location in Leander at 11880 Old 2243 West, Suite 206. Find the shopping center between Bagdad Road and Old US Highway 183.

Stop by the store to order a gift package, get a t-shirt, and try this locally produced beef jerky.

Orders are also accepted online at www.mahlonthebutcher.com.