If you’re anything like me, you’re always on the lookout for something unusual, delicious, and local to give as a gift.
Along those lines, I went in search of some barbecue-themed goodies that would make perfect stocking stuffers or great gifts under the tree. It’s easy enough to head to the supermarket and pick up a jar or two of local barbecue sauce.
Between my local Hy-Vee and Cosentino’s in Liberty, I have literally a dozen choices or more. But I was looking for something a little more personal, a little harder to find and a gift that would be memorable.
I offer up today three options for your Christmas barbecue shopping pleasure — two long-time favorites, Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue and Joe’s Kansas City Barbecue, and a newcomer to the barbecue scene — Flavor Trade, which has just opened a manufacturing facility and retail space on Troost Avenue.
Let’s start with one of the big boys, and one of my personal favorites, Jack Stack. I reached out to Ricky Paradise, Jack Stack’s vice president of shipping and retail for some insight into the holiday barbecue gift selection.
Paradise was a wealth of information as customers provide a wealth of business for Jack Stack over the holidays.
“The shipping division explodes with activity during the holiday season,” he said. “We will do roughly 50 percent of our annual revenue during the holiday season with gift purchases being the bulk of the activity during this time.”
His department spends a full four months just gearing up for the holidays and the around-the-clock work flow. He said they work like a well-oiled machine.
“We have everything we need in house,” he said. “Every cooler, every box, every bottle of sauce and every barbecue meat item is packed into our warehouse. We are stuffed to the rafters but we are ready to flood the country with barbecue.”
Gift-givers aren’t stingy in their holiday purchases. Paradise says the average order is $120. That will buy you a lot of barbecue and a lot more.
“If you asked our staff for their ‘insider picks,’ they would say the Hickory BBQ Chicken Wings, the Kobe beef ribs and the pork tenderloin,” he said. “During the holidays, we also see a strong uptick in the crown prime beef short ribs (nearly 11/2 inches of the most tender beef you will ever taste).
“This is widely considered the best of the best, and people often want to indulge during the holidays. The other thing that people purchase frequently is our gift packs with sauces and rubs.”
The gift of Jack Stack’s Kansas City barbecue goes nationwide — California, Texas, and New York are the most popular shipping destinations. Let’s hope the folks in New York and California know what they’re getting and that the folks in Texas understand there’s more to barbecue than beef.
But, I digress. On with the shopping and onto the recently rebranded Joe’s Kansas City Barbecue, which also makes a nice profit around the holidays.
Doug Worgul, marketing director for Joe’s, said they make about 14 percent of their annual business from Black Friday through the end of the year.
Joe’s is unusual in that it operates the Kansas City Barbecue store in addition to its three restaurants. As far as the most popular items, it’s gift cards, gift boxes and Joe’s Kansas City sauce. Worgul said Joe’s offers gift baskets and gift boxes, which he says are even better than the baskets “because they’re easier to ship.”
Worgul said the average purchase price is around $50. The vast majority of the purchases are made in the store.
“Approximately 72 percent of business during the holiday is generated by in-store purchases,” he said. “Eighteen percent is generated through online sales. This is pretty consistent throughout the year.”
Here are Joe’s top 10 online items in order:
▪ Gift Cards for Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que
▪ Joe’s Kansas City Sauce
▪ Joe’s Kansas City 2 pack Gift Box
▪ Cowtown Gift Box
▪ Cowtown Night of the Living
▪ Cowtown Original Sauce
▪ Joe’s Kansas City French Fry Seasoning
▪ Cowtown 3 Pack Spice Box
▪ Cowtown All Purpose Rub
▪ Kansas City BBQ Store Restaurant Legends Gift Box
My final stop, if you haven’t exhausted yourself or your budget, is at 30th Street and Troost Avenue in the former Wonder Bread bakery, which has been turned into the awesome Flavor Trade.
Full disclosure, Flavor Trade is the brainchild of a friend of mine, Shannon Kimball of Firebug Grilling Sauces. But friend or not, this is a terrific place to find some one-of-a-kind barbecue treasures that will make great gifts.
I sat down with Kimball over lunch recently to chat about Flavor Trade, what they make there and how they’re trying to make this Christmas special with baskets of locally made, small-batch goodies.
“We currently produce over 20 brands in our artisan kitchen,” Kimball said. “However, if you visit our showroom, you’ll have access to hundreds of locally made products through the ‘Made in Kansas City’ initiative. We open our retail space to any and all local entrepreneurs that create their own products.”
There’s plenty of barbecue sauces, rubs and salts to choose from, but there’s so much more, including smoked nuts, beef jerky, small batch hot sauces and soups made from scratch.
Flavor Trade can put anything you like in a basket, container or box for the holidays.
“Our most popular is the Build Your Own Gift Set. We were inspired recently when a customer came in to create a gift for a very special friend. Instead of using a basket, they chose a handcrafted cutting board as the base and then added a kitchen gadget, spice blend, barbecue sauce and a gift certificate for an in-home private wine dinner,” Kimball said. “We wrapped it in a colored bag and tied a large ribbon around it. It was absolutely stunning.”
So there you have them: three local, unusual, delicious ways to says Merry Christmas from Kansas City. Happy Holidays!
Dave Eckert is the producer and host of “Culinary Travels With Dave Eckert,” which aired on PBS-TV and Wealth TV for 12 seasons, for nearly 300 half-hour episodes produced on six continents.