The global COVID-19 pandemic has had a crippling impact on countless businesses around the world, but two north Florida business owners are trying to do their part to help their colleagues at home get through the crisis.
Tallahassee restaurant Tally Mac Shack and Cottondale-based Register Meat Co. teamed up to create a series of cheese-infused smoked sausages they are donating to more than a dozen local restaurants, which can then keep 100 percent of the profits.
The fundraising initiative is called the Sausage Stimulus, and the idea was born from the minds and hearts of Tally Mac Shack owner Justo Cruz and Register’s Ben Kaempfer. The duo saw the local restaurant community hurting from the ripple effect caused by the COVID-19 emergency, which forced the statewide closure of dine-in service in restaurants in Florida in an effort to stop the spread of the disease.
“Tallahassee is a small, niche community, and when you look at our hospitality and restaurant scene, we have grown so much over the last five to 10 years,” said Cruz, who started with one food truck in 2017 and has since added two more food trucks and two brick-and-mortar locations. “We don’t want to lose any of these great local places and become a town overrun by chains. So Ben and I asked ourselves, ‘What can we do to help local businesses during this COVID-19 shake-up?'”
The sausages — named Dirty Dogs and modeled after a similar item on Tally Mac Shack’s menu that features Register’s traditional smoked sausage topped with Tally Mac Shack’s macaroni and cheese — are being delivered this week to participating restaurants. After receiving their “stimulus package,” all the restaurants have to do is create a dish with the sausages and sell it for any price point they choose. The sausages will be offered in packages in grocery stores across North Florida next week.
The area restaurants that will take part in the Sausage Stimulus program include: Madison Social, Bumpa’s Local 349, Gordo’s Authentic Cuban Cuisine, Sage Restaurant, Canopy Road Café, Jeri’s Midtown Café, Backwoods Bistro, Fermentation Lounge, Riccardo’s Italian Restaurant, McGowan’s Hops and Grapes, Railroad Square Craft House, Coosh’s Bayou Restaurant, Dog Et Al, and Habana’s Boardwalk Café Restaurant.
“I’m extremely humbled and grateful by all these renowned local restaurants agreeing to take part in this initiative and helping to showcase a new collaborative product we’re debuting in North Florida,” said Cruz, who echoed a sentiment shared by Kaempfer. “These restaurants are already out there doing a great job reacting to this crisis in innovative ways to serve our community, and we’re proud to support them and get their support in return.”
Kaempfer said his love for Tallahassee, a city in which he was born and raised, made this idea a no-brainer when he and Cruz began discussing donating hundreds of pounds of sausage to help fellow local businesses.
“I love Tallahassee. It’s in my blood. From Creative Preschool to Sealey Elementary to Raa Middle School to Leon High School to Tallahassee Community College and then Florida State, I’m as Tallahassee-local as it gets,” said Kaempfer, whose family-owned business is about to celebrate its 80th year making hand-crafted sausages. “When Justo started telling me about the plight of some of the places around Tallahassee and how uncertain their future is, we really wanted to answer the call and do something.”
Madison Social founder and co-owner Matt Thompson, who is well-known around the Tallahassee restaurant industry as being a creative marketer, was one of the first restaurants to commit to being involved.
“Madison Social is excited to give this a try for our audience,” Thompson said. “Anytime you can flex your creative muscles a bit, add to our local business community, and make something people want — that is a win.”
Following the donation to the restaurants, the Dirty Dogs will also be packaged and sold through online ordering at Tallahassee craft brewery Deep Brewing and the Tally Mac Shack restaurant. The 9-inch links will then make their way to grocery stores such as Publix, Walmart, Winn Dixie, Harvey’s, Fresh 4 Less, Piggly Wiggly and Revel’s Meat Market starting next week.
The jalapeño cheddar sausage — the Fire Station Dalmation — is one of three Dirty Dogs that Tally Mac Shack and Register’s are collaborating on, and they plan to release them one at a time. The second release will be the Cajun K-9, which will feature Register’s andouille sausage infused with cheddar cheese. It will be followed by the Gouda Boy, featuring smoked gouda cheese infused inside Register’s smoked sausage.
“At the end of the day, this is a true local-supporting-local-supporting-local initiative. That may sound like a mouthful, but it’s 100 percent true,” Cruz said. “The most important thing about a collaboration like this is the man, or woman, or group behind the product. One the biggest reasons we decided to do this collaboration with Register’s is because, Ben and his family have been a part of this community for years, and their sausages truly are an incredible product. That is what will allow us — and the restaurants participating in the Sausage Stimulus — to create multiple options for customers.
“It’s a win-win for everyone in the community, especially during such an unprecedented time for us all.”