Jack Link's -- yes, the beef jerky brand -- debuts first-ever retail store ahead of downtown restaurant

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Caramelized onion and Jack Link's pepper jerky quiche -- will it make the menu when the meaty snack brand opens its eventual downtown restaurant? Emily Cassel

You won't believe how much Sasquatch-themed merch there is in this world.

Last week, Minneapolis became home to the first-ever Jack Link's beef jerky retail store. Located in the skyway level of the newly renovated Target Center, the shop stocks jerky, obviously, but also so much more -- winter gear, thermoses and water bottles, playing cards, alarm clocks -- most of which bears the beefy brand's furry mascot.

It's an entirely new merchandise line, stuff that, for the most part, you can't get anywhere else.

"People actually like wearing our brand ... We wanted to bring that to life," Tom "TD" Dixon, Jack Link's chief marketing officer, said at a Friday media preview (perhaps just the tiniest bit incredulously). 

Enter the tchotchkes.

There's more good news for the Sasquatch faithful. As Jack Link's readies to open its 78,000-square-foot research lab and office space downtown, along with an adjacent bar and restaurant, the retail store will become a place to pilot new ideas, letting shoppers sample new snacks and menu items before going to market.

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Hey babe, take a walk on the Jack Link's

That'll include creations from Wes Castelsky, executive R&D chef for Jack Link's, who whipped up vanilla pancakes with maple bacon jerky and whiskey caramel along with a caramelized onion Jack Link's pepper jerky quiche for Friday's event. Castelsky's also behind a Jack Link's signature Bloody Mary -- a jerky chew-infused drink with Minnesota's own Prairie Organic Vodka that's been in development for three years.

"There is a lot of culinary expertise that goes into making our product," Castelsky notes. "It's not just dried meat."

JL starts moving into those new offices next month; the innovation center will follow. The restaurant, Dixon says, is a little further out... but then, maybe you'll be able to try some stuff yourself during pop-ups at the retail store. 

Wild Side is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 12 to 6 p.m. Saturday, and is closed Sundays, but will have extended hours during Wolves games and other Target Center events.


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