Arts and Culture
Wed February 15, 2012
Don't Mock The Artisanal-Pickle Makers
Originally published on Wed February 15, 2012 8:48 am
A couple of years ago, Chris Woehrle grew sick of corporate life and decided to become an artisanal food craftsman — any kind of artisanal food craftsman. "I spent a month making every item I could think of: kimchi, harissa, salsa, every kind of pickle imaginable, a bunch of different herb mustards," says Woehrle, who worked for a music conglomerate. And every time, he quickly discovered, "there were eight companies already doing it well."
This is because Woehrle lives in Brooklyn, ground zero of the artisanal-food universe, where competition is intense. Eventually, though, he and his partner stumbled upon a hole in the market: handcrafted, all-natural beef jerky. And so Kings County Jerky was born....
It's tempting to look at craft businesses as simply a rejection of modern industrial capitalism. But the craft approach is actually something new — a happy refinement of the excesses of our industrial era...
As other countries move into mass production, the United States, even in the depths of economic doldrums, has a level of wealth that translates to fewer people willing to do dreary, assembly-line work at extremely low wages. More significant, we're entering an era of hyperspecialization. Huge numbers of middle-class people are now able to make a living specializing in something they enjoy, including creating niche products for other middle-class people who have enough money to indulge in buying things like high-end beef jerky.
Read the full column here.