Knott’s Berry Farm is not the only place in Orange County where you can meet a colorful character from the Old West.
Cowboy Dan sashayed into Los Alamitos earlier this year with a chuck wagon filled with more sorts of jerky than any greenhorn’s wildest daydream. Each jerky has to pass a rigorous taste test from a bench of steely-eyed judges: Cowboy Dan and his family.
“There isn’t a bad jerky in the house,” says Cowboy Dan.
“We stand behind our products,” agrees Mrs. Dan.
Cowboy Dan originally hails from the Sooner State of Oklahoma. His love of the Old West has been nurtured in the ungentle hands of Cowboy Action Shooting, where aficionados and desperadoes develop and register an alter ego and take part in on-location shoot-em-ups using live ammunition and authentic Western pistols, revolvers and rifles.
Dan’s trail to selling jerky in Los Alamitos and online wound through day jobs in retail and back office banking until some no-good scalawag laid him off in November 2009, part of an all-around massacre in the financial services industry that spread like prairie fire.
A bad job market left Cowboy Dan out of work through the summer of 2010. He and his missus looked at each other, shrugged, and decided to take advantage of involuntary freedom by road-tripping through California. For seven and a half weeks, the family stopped at every roadside stand the length and breadth of the Golden State. And every roadside stand that sold jerky found them ready customers.
Now you might be asking yourself, “What about the missus? Did she have a job?”
Mrs. Dan is a hardy and wily immigrant from Buckinghamshire, England, who arrived on these shores in 1992 to work as a programmer. When she and Dan met and merged, young Tommy was soon added to Mrs. Dan’s own daughter, Lauren (age 13), and son (Michael, age 11). Mrs. Dan gave up her job as an IT manager to stay home with the children. So when Dan lost his job, the family lost their livelihood.
When the family returned home to Long Beach after that summer road trip, Dan and Mrs. Dan settled the kids back in school and settled themselves down to some hard thinking and deciding.
The family finances were drying up faster than a gulch after a flash flood.
Dan still had nary a prospect of a job.
They wanted to do something together as a family.
Nowhere close by sold really good jerky.
Maybe God was trying to tell them something.
So Dan and Mrs. Dan rolled up their sleeves and got to work.
They formed a limited liability company in September 2010. They thought that they’d stake a claim to a pure online business selling jerky through an ecommerce website. But the more they prospected and the more locations they poked around, the more they thought that they ought to add bricks to clicks.
Their first-choice location in the Oak Center near City Hall fell through, bushwhacking their planned Thanksgiving opening date. But that small (570 square feet) retail space didn’t meet strict Health Department requirements for selling packaged foods, and would have been hard and costly to gussy up.
Meantime, Mrs. Dan worked with Volusion to create their website. That part of their business was whipped into line while they continued looking for a space that had enough elbow room for retail sales and website order fulfillment — plus a kids’ corral.
Once they found it, they set to readying that bigger location. Cowboy Dan’s Jerky Emporium has now been open most of a year. They’ve settled in by joining in fuss ’n’feathers like Taste for Los Al, where friends and neighbors lined up to try samples of Dan’s mighty fine jerky. Dan, Mrs. Dan and the family toured Wings, Wheels, Rotors & Expo at the Joint Forces Training Base to get the lay of the land for next year’s big whoop-di-doo.
They’ve even sent off a donation to Los Alamitos Unified School District that was officially accepted by the School Board last month.
A few things still need tacking down. For instance, Dan, a handy fellow, is building a display that will stand behind his Lone Star cash-and-wrap.
Surprise fast-sellers right out of the chute are Cowboy Dan’s Favorite Chocolate Bars (beef jerky in milk chocolate or dark chocolate), custom-ordered from Chocomize.
Other early customer favorites are Divine Bovine and Zombie Flesh.
You say you’re a vegetarian? Mouth-bustingly flavorful fruit leathers will keep your taste buds a-tingling.
Gluten intolerant? The missus has a list of gluten-free jerkies ready to hand. (Good idea to skip the teriyaki jerky altogether.)
Dan even remembered man’s best friend — jerky treats for dogs are in stock.
Dan appreciates his early customers, including the small herd of high school boys who rode in on skateboards and declared the Emporium to be “the manliest store” they’ve ever seen. They backed that opinion with cash on the barrel head, and returned more than once for more.
The Cowboy Dan operation wants to support the community, too.
If you know a traditional Western artist, holler at him to lasso Dan or Mrs. Dan for a chance to display artwork for sale in the store.
If you want to buy items for members of the military, Dan and the missus offer two different ways. First, you can send items to “Any Soldier” and Cowboy Dan will take care of the details. Second, you can send items to a particular member of the military (say, a friend or family member) and Cowboy Dan will take care of shipping to APO/FPO addresses — he’ll even cover the shipping cost.
If you are scouting new ways to raise money for your school or organization, check out Cowboy Dan’s affiliate program.
And they’ve also shook hands with Miller Children’s Hospital, St. Baldrick’s and CaringBridge to hand over 5% of the operation’s gross profit every quarter.
Outside business hours, Cowboy Dan answers to the moniker “Dan Stephens” and Mrs. Dan to “Amanda Haygood-Stephens.”
Cowboy Dan’s Jerky Emporium is located at 4218 Katella Avenue, almost as far as Noel Street, just east of Los Alamitos Animal Hospital and in the same shopping center as Subway, Edible Arrangements and Train 2 Shape Physical Therapy. You can call them at 562-431-4139 or visit www.cowboydansjerky.com online.
Currently, they accept cold hard cash as payment, along with Mastercard, Visa, American Express and Discover — but not personal checks, pardner.
For more information about Cowboy Action Shooting, visit the website of the Single Action Shooting Society at www.sassnet.com online.
Jerky is healthy!
Contrary to popular belief, beef jerky is a health food. One ounce of beef jerky will cost you only seventy to a hundred calories counterweighted by its role as an excellent source of protein (found in every cell in your body), zinc (good for your immune system), vitamin B12 (for a healthy blood supply and nervous system), selenium (a natural antioxidant proven to fight cancer and arthritis) and phosphorus (promotes strong bones and teeth).
Jerky is also a good source of niacin (helps lower cholesterol), vitamin B16 (boosts your immune system), iron (for red blood cells) and riboflavin (helps change stored carbohydrates into sugar to fuel your body).
- Caffeinated jerky and Zapplesauce: Adding kick to the military’s tough-to-swallow MRE – The Washington Post (xbradtc.wordpress.com)
- Cherkees, Beef Jerky Potato Chips (laughingsquid.com)
- Beef jerky potato chips (holykaw.alltop.com)