Northern Waters Smokehaus has been selling smoked fish, meats, salumi, and sandwiches out of its little DeWitt-Seitz Marketplace location for so long that some regulars call it an institution.
To celebrate 20 years of smoking, slinging sandwiches and stumbling through the seasons with various levels of success, Northern Waters is offering discounts, sales and giveaways all year long. For the month of July the business is conducting a Duluth-wide (within its delivery range) Scavenger Hunt.
I have never worked a fine-dining kitchen but was a short-order fry cook for many years and absolutely loved the work. It’s the closest I have ever been to becoming a star athlete: the physical challenge, mental focus, and team effort of the average brunch service was a rush no matter how many times I got through it. I would sit eagerly after the line was clean, watching the waitress tally her tickets so I could go home with my head full of fresh stats: 200 covers, 8 hours, no walk-outs, no comps = perfect game.
And I was good. I have no idea why. I walked into the diner of my future as a 21-year-old anthropology student and applied for a part-time job I (falsely) assumed would be as low-accountability as my former pizza kitchen work, where as the only woman in the back of the house I was treated with all the novelty I deserved and none of the (usual) hostility. Like a kitten in a nursing home, my male co-workers gave me just enough to play with in that kitchen so I didn’t run away, all the while relieved to have a distraction from their own tired dynamics.
Scrolling through files on my computer at work, I can pretty much trace the progression of the business through spreadsheets, price labels and photographs (candid and professional) of events, company parties, and breaks in the action behind the counter. Families have grown, ex-staffers have gone to rehab, become police officers, found god, and earned master’s degrees, prices have more than quintupled, and previously experimental recipes have been honed into lexicon. When I say “progression,” I mean pile: an amorphous mass of guesswork, troubleshooting and triage that has taken shape and could be temporarily (like for the purposes of this essay) deemed linear.
I work for Northern Waters Smokehaus, a small business gone large. The retail side of the enterprise started out 15 years ago with the idea that we were going to offer a small, specialized service (smoked fish and imported cheese) to a specialized audience (those with the monetary means coupled with the proper palettes). We had five employees counting the owner himself, who took care of pretty much everything besides front-line sales (though he did that as well from time to time, and was utterly expert at it — I think a dozen bored housewives fell in love with him that first year we were open, charmed irresistibly by his earnest and passionate obsession for good food).
Beginning May 5, Northern Waters Smokehaus sandwiches will be available by bike. We began developing this fantasy years ago, spurred by intense store congestion and the problematic nature of (car) delivery from dead center in Canal Park, where not much speed is possible during the summer months because of the bridge and the gawkers.
Reactions to this plan have ranged from a scale of “awesome” to “that’s hilarious.” While most people seem to really dig the green aspects of ped-powered delivery, many feel that biking in Duluth (in general) is risky. Sometimes it seems that, perhaps due to the lack of bike lanes/awareness, the mere sight of a biker in the traffic lane pisses drivers off. Our bikers are very experienced and bike in Duluth nearly year-round. They know the rules, the dangers, and the potential for road-rage. But this kind of delivery is still an experiment here. As is our policy at the Smokehaus, we hope we mostly delight the public.
What do you think, PDDers? Is rapid-fire bike delivery a viable venture in our frosty little luge track? And speaking of frosty, how insane would it be to offer it year-round?