Appetite for the wildPublished 10:46pm Wednesday, January 11, 2012
There is a place in Berrien Springs that can satisfy even the most exotic of tastes.
Alligator meat. Kangaroo meat. Buffalo meat. Elk meat. Even ostrich meat.
You name it, Zick’s Specialty Meats has got it.
“People think it is neat sometimes to go out and try something different, something unique,” said owner Garry Zick. “That is what we’re known for.”
For nearly 30 years, Zick’s Specialty Meats in downtown Berrien Springs has been bringing out the wild side in peoples’ taste buds.
Zicks specializes in wild game snacks, smoked sausages and game meats, many of which they ship all over the country. There is a good chance you’ve tried some of it without knowing.
Outdoors superstore Cabela’s is one of Zick’s biggest customers. Zick’s makes a large portion of the exotic meat products Cabela’s sells in its store and catalogs.
Zick’s also makes the popular Buffalo Bob’s Big Game Meat Snacks, which come in a variety of species from buffalo, to alligator, to maple duck, elk, venison and kangaroo. And yes, the meat comes from the real animals.
“We make about 2 million of the meat snacks a year,” Garry said.
The history of Zick’s can be traced to the 1960s and a grocery store called Zick’s Vineland Foods in St. Joseph. Owned by his parents, Zick’s Vineland Foods is where Garry got his start making old-fashioned sausage. Garry says he learned the ropes from a master sausage maker that came to the United States from Germany after the Second World War.
“I was just about 12 years old then, but I learned as much as I could from him,” Garry said.
Garry opened Zick’s Specialty Meats in Berrien Springs in 1983 and has been using old world European recipes ever since to keep his customers coming back for more.
Zick’s offers more than 20 flavors of snack sticks and jerky and more than 30 kinds of bacons, sausages and other smoked meats. All their products are USDA inspected daily.
“People come from all over for our Apple Smoke Bacon,” Garry said.
Zick’s will also process meat brought in from local hunters into smoked meats and sausages.
“Our family has been doing that for about 45 years,” Garry said.
When Garry and his wife opened Zick’s Specialty Meats in Berrien Springs in the ’80s, their goal was to make just enough income to allow his wife to stay home with the kids. They’ve done quite a bit better than that.
“I never would’ve believed it would’ve expanded to where it is now,” Garry said. “I guess it is one of those American dream-type things.”
When Garry isn’t at Zick’s, you might find him fly-fishing with his son on the St. Joseph River or spending time with his family.
“My wife and I have worked hard, and now we are getting to enjoy life a little bit,” Garry said. “My dad used to always take me on fishing trips, and now I’m taking my grandkids on fishing trips, so it is kind of neat.”