Two levels below the Northern Waters Smokehaus stands Eric Goerdt at the meat slicer. It is 9:30 a.m. and he is slicing pancetta and layering it on baking sheets to prepare it for the smoking process.
Open seven days a week, Goerdt is at the Smokehaus every day.
“Sometimes for only ten or fifteen minutes,” he said.
The Northern Waters Smokehaus, locacted in Canal Park in Duluth, offers smoked meats and fish, as well as a cheese deli alongside a fridge full of classic Coca Cola and Fanta bottles. Written on a chalkboard is their sandwich menu with names such as the D-Luxx, the Sitka Sushi and the Fuzzy Bunny, which is their vegetarian option.
Goerdt grew up with a family who enjoyed fishing and hunting, anything dealing with the outdoors. He also spends time in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and goes camping during the long winter months.
In the 90s, Goerdt was in the U.S. Coast Guard and stationed in Sitka, Alaska. While enlisted, he began studying the idea of fish smoking and thought he could make a business of it once he returned to Duluth.
And that is what he did. Goerdt opened up his very own smokehouse in 1998 and moved it to its Canal Park location in 2000.
Zach Anderson, employee at GeaCom Inc., enjoys a sandwich from the Smokehaus every once in awhile for lunch.
“Normally when I go to sandwich places I ask for the sandwich without something or change it in some way,” said Anderson.
“With the Smokehaus I trust that the way they make it is the best way to eat it.”
Tucked in the corner of the basement stands two smokehouses, each about seven feet tall and about three feet wide. This is where Goerdt spends most of his time.
“We’re like a micro-brewery you know,” said Goerdt. “Micro-smokery.”
Goerdt said the local businesses tend to represent what Duluth is all about.
“That’s why people come here, they don’t come here to eat Red Lobster,” Goerdt said. “We’re trying to be a community asset.”
Even though the summer tourist season is over, Goerdt says that the current month of December is the busiest time of the year for the Smokehaus.
They do Internet mail orders and gift boxes to people all over the country.
“It’s a huge part of our business,” Goerdt said.
The Smokehaus itself is unique, and Goerdt wanted to stay exclusive by using a special process of making their salami called dry-cure. The salami is hand-tied and slowly aged to create Italian-style Salamini, a smoky Spanish-style Chorizo, a French-style Saucisson Sec, and a Pepperoni.
“We’re one of the few places in the country that actually makes salami like this.”
Erik Lofald works alongside Goerdt in the basement preparing and smoking the meat and fish. Lofald worked in the meat department at the Kenwood SuperOne for six years before Goerdt recruited him.
Goerdt was a frequent customer at the Kenwood location and Lofald developed a strong relationship with Goerdt and discovered the importance of a local business in the community.
“Working for a small business it’s a little more personal, and Eric (Goerdt) has a face in the community,” Lofald said. “He’s a good boss, he has a good business model, and he’s fun to work for.”