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5 Things About NWS Mail Order in 2019

The Holiday Mail Order season at Northern Waters Smokehaus has officially come to a close! Writing this summary post, it seems like barely a heartbeat has passed, but to the dedicated seasonal and All-Season staff working long hours—the M.O. workdays often extended from as early as 5 a.m. to as late as midnight, divided between a few shifts of amorphous length—it must feel like the conclusion to an epic journey.

Much has changed for us in the previous year of the department. In the late Spring, Andy took over as mail order director. In the Summer and Fall months, we designated cut-off days for the various holiday shipping schedules, solidified communication channels between the mail order department and the production team (aka the smokehouse), re-assessed our shipping rates and carriers to accurately reflect the material cost of shipping throughout the nation, and, for basically the first time in the department’s history, are now not losing money on the cost of shipping.

All of these changes have helped our small-scale operation provide exquisite smoked fish, meats, and other treats to an enormous amount of people this season, and to do so in a profitable manner: huge news for any small business!

This week, we’ll look at a few data points—I’d guess about five—that might provide some insight into the season and what it entails.

Ten (plus one) people.

Andy, six other year-round NWS employees, three seasonal laborers, and former M.O. director, Annemarie—also former author of this blog—taking care of outreach for corporate orders remotely: That’s the size of the crew who spent the last month and some change packaging and shipping out several literal tons of product to as close as Southern Minnesota and as far as Hawaii.

One month, one week.

That’s the length of the “season” as we measured it this year. Mail order happens, to varying degrees, year round at NWS, but for the sake of this blog post (and our own internal reckoning), the holiday shipping season began on November 11th and ended on December 18th, with the cutoff for orders shipped in 2019 on December 16th.

One thousand seven hundred sixty three.

That is how many individual boxes were shipped during the official season. 1,576 orders taken in-store, over the phone, or online, with an additional 187 through Goldbelly. Though it is never quite so cut-and-dried, that works out to just under 180 boxes per mail order staff member during this short stint.

A look at the most popular items.

While researching this tidbit, or, more accurately, asking Flo to help me uncover these statistics, the initial report was mistakenly only for the final week of the season. Upon second inspection, with proper dates in-place, we got a nearly identical list. Since I’ve mentioned both of them, I’ll provide both. Here’s the top sellers for the final week of 2019 mail order, followed by the top sellers the whole season:

And overall:

Clearly, our smoked fish is the overall winner of the season, which is not a huge surprise, given how popular it, and fish sandwiches, are in our deli.

Peak dates.

I’ll spare you the very boring-looking graph, but five days stood out (with steep peaks) for orders placed—a perfect number for the overarching theme of this blog. The significance of these dates may be partially arbitrary, but I’ll try to wager a guess as to why each day was so successful. What follows is a blend of fact and intuition:

  • 11/18 – This date reeks to me of “final day to place orders that will arrive before Thanksgiving” territory.
  • 11/29 – This was Black Friday, right? All of the calendars in the room are flipped to December, so I cannot be bothered to verify this claim.
  • 12/2 – Cyber Monday, also known ’round these parts as Pigs in Space, a day when many folks are compelled by deals to shop online. Our particular variety of deal is free (or reduced) shipping on orders between $150 and $350 placed on this day.
  • 12/9 – I have barely the slightest clue as to the significance of this date. Shot in the dark: Folks want their food available for the holidays, early enough that there is no concern about it arriving on time, but not so early as to be on its last legs of freshness when served.
  • 12/15 – The penultimate day to place orders for shipping in 2019.

Sincerest thanks for reading this week, and for whatever part you may have played in our Holiday Mail Order Season! Shipping resumes January 6th, 2020!

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5 Things: December 13th, 2019

It’s the final Friday the 13th of the decade!

Welcome back to 5 Things™. This week we have a very important announcement: December 16th-18th are the final days of mail order shipping until next year. January 6th, to be precise, is when mail order shipping resumes. The last day to place an order to be shipped is Tuesday, the 17th.

This isn’t a good photo, but I hope it is useful.

Between writing a company newsletter and continuing to work on the cookbook, I’ve become a bit exhausted of words this week. The rest of this week’s Things™ will be mostly photographs. If there are words describing them, it is because I couldn’t help myself.

Duluth Winter Village.

Participating in the Duluth Winter Village at Glensheen is always a joy.

Photos by Sharon McMahon of Three Irish Girls Photography

Flo is a beacon of goodness in this world.
Everybody’s looking warm as heck out here.

One Window: Two Views.

I got to work at my favorite desk this week. Here’s the view right up against the glass.

And from a few feet back.

Art by Leif and his daughter.

Deli Life: Cheesy.

Our deli is stocked to the brim with amazing cheeses, like this trio from Jasper Hill Farms. I eagerly await the next shipment, since setting out a sample of the newly-arrived cheeses for employees to sample is common practice at the Smokehaus.

Carrot Cake Cookies are back!

In case you hadn’t noticed in that last photo—I get it: I’m not a great photographer and there’s a lot of glare/reflection—Patricia’s amazing cookie sandwiches are back in-stock.


Thanks for stopping by 5 Things™! See you next week!

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5 Things: August 23rd, 2019

Summer isn’t over yet, but the morning air is crisper, and the pace of life is slowing down. The tall ships have come and gone, the flood of students is just beginning to trickle into town. Walking past our deli, it may not always appear this way, but life is on the calmer side, at least for a few weeks.

But that doesn’t mean life at the Smokehaus is any less interesting.

We have new faces in the deli.

Faces.

For those keeping score, over the past few weeks we’ve steadily mentioned that we’re hiring, and as a result, we already have a handful of new staff training in. I’d caution the world to be patient with and/or kind to them, since they are new and the pace of our little deli can be overwhelming, but they’re already performing like seasoned veterans.

Labor Day Mail Order Sale.

Labor Daybor

Beginning August 26th, we’re running a mail order special: 20% off your cart (online only) when you enter the discount code bluecollar. The sale runs through Labor Day (9/2). However, if you want your food to arrive in time for Labor Day weekend celebrations, place your order by Tuesday, August 27th—those orders will be shipped on Wednesday (8/28) and arrive by Friday (8/30). Otherwise, you can schedule your shipping date for whenever you’d like. Pro-tip: this is the best mail order sale of the year, so if you know exactly what you want to order for Fall and Winter holidays, this is a good time to do it.

Speaking of Mail Order, here’s our updated holiday shipping schedule.

Bookmark this page as an easy reference when ordering for holidays, and you’ll be guaranteed to get your orders at the perfect interval for gifting or entertaining. Become the master of your own destiny; know for yourself exactly when to place orders, and when to have them shipped for best results.

Monday night D&D returns to The Midnight Axe.

Images unrelated.

The Summer season of our unofficial office Dungeons and Dragons crew is coming to a close with a short adventure tying us back into our ongoing campaign, right before our DM heads on an extended vacation, leaving us to fend for ourselves.

This Summer, we set our main campaign to the side, in order to focus on a handful of smaller, unconnected adventures. Not only did this allow each of us to test out a number of character ideas, and novel settings, but it also gave us time to miss our main characters, as distance does indeed make the heart grow fonder.

“The Midnight Axe” is the name—generated by rolling percentile dice against a chart of fantasy party names—of our primary party. When we’re not embroiled in a scavenger hunt for a cache of money embezzled long ago from the treasury of the Manhattan-esque city of Waterdeep, and avoiding/averting the frequent pitfalls of gangs whose rivalry we earned incidentally, we’re just trying to earn a mostly-honest living running a tavern called The Malt Solstice. However, some way or another, we’ve gained some notoriety as adventurers—and it’s drawn some public interest.

In our session on Monday, Harrison (our Dungeon Master) presented each of us with three characters (shout out to Harrison for developing fifteen character concepts in a single weekend) who are looking, for one reason or another, to join our ranks. This coming session, we’ll be embarking on a mission with our chosen secondary characters to discover their strengths, and how they’ll fit into our adventuring party. Perhaps they’ll join us on the front lines, perhaps they’ll stick around headquarters and craft potions nonstop, perhaps they’ll alternate between venturing into the Undermountain (where our campaign has us heading) and providing security at the Malt Solstice. Only time will tell.

Character biographies forthcoming.

Patricia’s corner.

Let’s get personal.

Let’s get one thing straight: Any week that there are not five immediately obvious other Things™ to talk about, Patricia is going to get a nod. Ever since she moved to full-time baking, we’ve become accustomed to carrying an assortment of cookies—chocolate chip, ginger, peanut butter curry, carrot cake cookie sandwiches with honey cream cheese, coconut macaroons (which are gluten-free*), and most recently chocolate walnut flourless cookies (also gluten-free**)—pasties, cheddar crackers, savory scones, and even personal pizzas. This week’s pizza featured smoked bacon, blackberries, and chèvre, and her pizza sauce, in general, is composed of the odds-and-ends bits of tomato from the morning’s prep.

That’s honestly one of the best things about Patricia’s approach to baking for NWS—by utilizing more parts of the foods we use, we generate substantially less waste as a business, which improves our model of sustainability (not to mention profitability) overall, and in the process, we end up with these delicious, fan-favorite items in our deli

*/**: It’s worth noting that these are not baked in a completely gluten-free environment. In terms of ingredients, they are entirely gluten-free, but those at serious risk should be aware of the chance of cross-contamination.

I got to observe production of Country Pâté.

Observe.

Compiling recipes for the cookbook is great fun, but not without its challenges. In addition to needing to massively scale down some recipes—we’re operating under the assumption you’ll never need to make one-hundred pounds of Smoked Whitefish at home—other recipes in our own workbooks lack, well, instruction.

Country pâté, for example, is just a list of ingredients, which our skilled production crew understands how to massage—eh, grind—into the savory loaves we all love. Brandt happened to catch me during a fresh air break yesterday to let me know he was making it.

Seeing that static list of ingredients—browned bacon and onion; Berkshire liver, pork and back fat; brandy; cure; rosemary and thyme; etc.—ground once and then half again (to achieve the preferred inconsistent consistency), mixed with what could reasonably pass as TLC, and packaged to chill overnight before being packed into loaf pans and slow-cooked, was enlightening, and proof that someone needs to write down those steps, because there’s a lot of them. If not for our own benefit, certainly for the book.

Once again, I’d like to give a public shout-out to the smokers for the sheer volume of high-quality product they consistently churn out.

I’ve done it again. Yesterday, I stared at my week’s notes and wondered, “which five Things™ am I going to write about? Are there five Things™ that may intrigue or inspire our readership(?),” and here I am, writing Thing™ six-and-a-half. I hope you’re happy.

We hope to see you in our deli this weekend—whether you wait in line, or skip the line via pickup —or your name and address in our delivery system. If you’re going to be near Canal Park/Downtown, make sure you bring ear protection, because the Tribute Fest will be rocking hard.

Stay tuned in the next handful of weeks for some new sandwich options—including your blogger’s own contribution to the Sandwich Lab specials—and exciting collaborations.

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5 Things: July 12th, 2019

5 Things™ is back from vacation. I had the best steak of my life (please pound your steaks thin and marinate them overnight before you ever consider cooking them), my very first experience with escargot, watched a Chicago-sized storm cloud travel over Chicago from a balcony at the epicenter of the cloudburst, and even got a wicked sunburn at a crowded beach, but didn’t manage to churn out a blog. Hopefully you just went about your lives and didn’t miss it too much.

Here’s a handful of things that I’ve learned about life at NWS since I’ve returned.

Andy has stepped into his role as Mail Order director.

I already knew about this one, but you may not have. Shipping our hand-crafted products around the nation is part of the foundation of our business, but the department has been without a leader for a couple months. In practice, perhaps you didn’t even notice, due to our staff’s ability to fill in the gaps.

We interviewed several candidates within our existing staff, and selected Andy to guide the future of this department. Training in as the director of this massive endeavor—December is one of our most profitable months, and that is in large part due to mail order—is no small, short, or easy task, so we wish Andy the best.

Tyler has evolved into his delivery/pickup assistant manager-form.

Tyler, who once told me he didn’t want any responsibility beyond being a good dishwasher—I’m paraphrasing—has now taken on more responsibility, seemingly of his own accord.

The delivery/pickup department, which has been going through its own evolution lately—simultaneously contracting its in-haus delivery hours and range, and expanding its hours and range through third-party delivery services Food Dudes and Bite Squad—welcomes Tyler’s affable leadership.

The Fish Schtick.

“Sandwich Lab” may be one of the most-oft repeated phrases in my blogging life. This month’s Sandwich Lab special (temporary addition to the sandwich menu) is a curious sandwich called the Fish Schtick.

Assembled on a haus ciabatta roll, it is composed of Traditional Smoked Atlantic Salmon, tomato, cornichon pickle, lettuce, mayo, and lemon pepper. It has a bright, complex, yet cohesive harmony of flavors tied together by the smoky goodness of our salmon.

The Fish Schtick accounts for about 2% of our sandwich sales during its time on the menu, which is nothing to shake a schtick at.

The months ahead will feature a Lake Superior Lake Trout-salad sandwich, and a smoked Andouille sausage, chevre, and green apple sandwich. Stay hungry, because all of these Sandwich Lab specials get you two stamps on your sandwich card. Now that’s value!

We have the hardest working production crew in town!

Okay, this may not be strictly true—I didn’t do any research—but hear me out: I checked in with our team of roughly five smokers about their life in the basement, and found out that they’ve been putting in hours—working double shifts, sometimes triples, and the occasional overnight—but that was only after some prying on my part.

Their first answer to my inquiry about life in the basement: “It’s pretty chill!”

How’s that for a winning attitude? This is the energy we need to take with us into the rest of 2019.

We had a span of 11 days that would have blown my mind when I started at NWS.

And I was on vacation the whole time.

When I began working at our humble deli, there was tangible excitement any time our daily sales were above $5,000. I’m pretty sure $9,000 in sales would have merited a pizza party, popping Champagne corks (or vigorously-shaken LaCroix cans), and maybe even some light screaming.

While I was out of town, our average daily sales were closing in on $10,000, even on days that we closed early, due to holidays and our Sunday hours. For eleven days.

We’re really glad you all like us so much.

We love you forever!

See you next time on 5 Things™.

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5 Things December 7th

Today’s post will be a serious one. We’re already a week into December and there’s already been a post about “x things pertaining to mail order” on our blog, but the 5 Things™ this week are still going to pertain to mail ordering our products during the month of December. There’s so much to cover.

  1. Cutoffs for holidays!
    This is all I want in my stocking this year. Full-length jeans that have been turned into short jeans. Free the calf. I am kidding, and apologetic. This was supposed to be a serious post.What I’m really talking about is cutoffs for shipping our products based on holidays which affect shipping or might be your reason for ordering in the first place.
    Here are some relevant dates & times and how they pertain to shipping:Tuesday, December 18th @ noon: Cutoff for placing orders to be shipped nationwide before Christmas.
    Wednesday, December 19th @ noon: Cutoff for placing orders to be shipped within Minnesota before Christmas.Wednesday, December 19th: Last day of regular shipping before Christmas.
    Thursday, December 20th: Last day of MN-only shipping before Christmas. At this point, it is overnight shipping (not flat-rate) only for any last-minute nationwide orders.

    Wednesday, December 26th: Last day of regular shipping nationwide before the end of the year.
    Thursday, December 27th: Last day of MN-only shipping before the end of the year. Last day of overnight shipping nationwide.

  2. A note about receiving orders!
    Although “end of the day” for many businesses is somewhere around 5pm, for UPS deliveries, it is 9pm. How might this affect you? Let me break it down:•Orders placed with us before noon on a given day will be shipped out the next day.
    •Shipped orders arrive two shipping days later. (Orders shipped on Tuesday arrive on Thursday; orders shipped on Wednesday arrive on Friday).
    •Orders arrive based on UPS delivery schedules, which means anytime between X am and 9 pm. Unfortunately, we are unable to guarantee specific delivery times for our standard shipping orders.Say you want an All Season Fillet for your holiday party on Wednesday, December 19th, hypothetically speaking, at 7pm. If your order were shipped out on Monday, December 17th, it could arrive on Wednesday at 5pm, but it could also arrive as late as 9pm. Your party was probably still a hit, but the All Season Fillet arrived too late.The best way to circumvent this requires just a little bit of planning ahead: Have the order delivered the week prior.

    Imagine the same scenario, shipped ahead of time: You place your order at 11:55 am on Tuesday, December 11th. It is shipped on Wednesday, the 12th. It arrives Friday, the 14th—perhaps at a convenient time, but perhaps at 9 pm. You refrigerate your All Season all weekend, and into the next week. On the Wednesday, the 19th, at 6 pm, you lay out a gorgeous array of edible art, centered around our fillet and your party guests rave to their friends and family about the delicious food at the holiday party for months to come.

    TL;DR All of this more succinctly here.

  3. Keep up with the latest deals!
    Sign up for our newsletter. Any online or mail order deals will be tied to a coupon code, and our newsletter is the first place to receive those codes.When you subscribe to our newsletter, you will immediately receive a code for 15% off any order. Active subscribers (those of you who regularly open those newsletter links) receive additional deal offers. There’s a form to sign up for our email newsletter located at the bottom of our website homepage.

  4. A note about our staff!
    December is a hectic month around Northern Waters Smokehaus. The sheer volume of production that goes in our facilities, the sometimes Summerlike lines of patrons rounding out their holiday gift shopping, and the hundreds of orders that ship out each week between Monday and Wednesday. Sometimes it can all feel like a blur.If some error does occur with your order, or you aren’t totally satisfied with our product or service, let us know, be patient with us, and we’ll do what we can to make sure you are. We’re all in this together. Like High School Musical, but with more smoked fish.

    porketta
    here’s a lovely photograph of our porketta, to ease your weary eyes from this wall of text.

    5. We have been included in a number of holiday gift guides!Thank you, everyone who included us in their gift guides! Check them out below.

    Twin Cities Business Magazine 2018 Corporate Gift Guide

    Hemispheres Eat, Drink, & Be Merry

    City Pages Ultimate Minnesota Gift Guide For Foodies

Happy Friday, friends. Until next time.

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The Art of Gift Giving

Let’s face it, not everyone is good at giving gifts. Remember that Seinfeld episode? The one where Jerry gives Elaine 182 dollars to her snarky response, but then weeps when given a beautiful wooden bench she asked for, complete with a Yeats-quoted card (from Kramer, of all people).  Now, there’s the art of gift giving.

“Think where man’s glory most begins and ends and say my glory was I had such a friend.” – Yeats

At the Smokehaus, we appreciate fine and thoughtful things, and pairing certain items together for special gift boxes throughout the year brings us great joy. We know many of our mail order customers have been to the Canal Park deli on a special trip to Duluth. They have fond memories of being in our small shop, of traipsing around the Northland for summer fun and whimsy, all coupled with the mouth-watering goodness that filled their bellies and their memories. And perhaps, you’ve thought about how to bring the feelings of the Smokehaus into your own dining room.

We do understand giving the gift of specialty food mailed right to your door is a luxury, and that’s why we send the freshest product, handle and package each item with care and respect, and are sure to email or call you with any questions about your order or desired delivery time. (We even accept custom gift box orders.) We hope you feel giddy when you receive these special boxes of smoked delicacies. And we hope you will send a gift box to a friend someday, or a mother, for a special occasion, or to share together over beers on the deck, recounting all the hilarity and inside jokes from that last trip up the shore.

Gift Boxes Courtesy of the Smokehaus

Order Mother’s Day Gift Boxes by Wednesday, May 10th to ensure delivery before Mother’s Day.

Order Father’s Day Gift Boxes by Wednesday, June 14th, to ensure delivery before Father’s Day.

Order Northern Bagel Sandwich Kits anytime for that special someone, or special people. The Northern Bagel has been featured on our menu since 2001.

How many times have you been to the Canal Park deli? Who did you come with? Leave comments above.

Cheers, friends! And Happy Gift Giving!