The daily grind: 150 pounds

Pork, spices and elbow grease.

That’s the recipe for success for two pals who just launched Sausage Craft, which makes –  you guessed it –  fresh sausages by hand.

Owners Chris Mattera, 29, and Brad Hemp, 30, met while working at the Belmont Butchery. Idle talk of launching their own wholesale sausage business eventually transformed into a serious idea, and now they sell to restaurants and retailers across town.

With their first full week in business behind them, Hemp says they are off to a good start.

“We’ve got four solid accounts with more in the pipeline,” Hemp said.

That includes grocer Ellwood Thompson’s, which will soon start carrying six varieties of sausages. The products are also on the menu at a couple of local restaurants, including Avenue 805 and Cafe Rustica.

Hemp said the company is on track to meet or beat its first-month goal of selling 400 pounds of sausage, which sells at wholesale for between $7 and $10 a pound.

Sausage Craft is hoping to fill a niche in the market between cheap varieties of sausage sold by the big food service companies and expensive imports, Hemp said.

They are also tapping into the growing local food movement, which has led to the rise of several farmers’ markets in the area. Hemp said they have a hot dog cart that they plan to take to such markets to sell cooked sausage to promote the brand.

Right now the company has about 14 varieties, including English Bangers and Iberian Chorizo. They also plan to add bacon and hot dogs later on.

While Hemp handles the business side of things, Mattera spends a great deal of his time inside of the frigid walk-in refrigerator, trimming, grinding, seasoning and stuffing sausages.

Production at their rented facility on Dabney Road has been underway for a couple of weeks now, with Mattera capable of producing up to 150 pounds of sausage a day. The sausage is made from all-natural pork. Some varieties incorporate lamb, veal and beef. In fact, Mattera has been wrist-deep in ground pork since he was a young boy.

“My family came here from New Jersey, and I couldn’t find any of the sausages I used to eat. So when I was 12 or 13, I started making my own by hand,” Mattera said.

After graduating from Virginia Tech with a degree in sociology, Mattera didn’t like his job prospects. He went back to school, this time to Le Cordon Bleu, a culinary institute in Paris. He also spent time in Tuscany studying under a third-generation butcher.

With Mattera’s culinary skill backing them up, the duo figured that, with a business plan in hand, getting a start-up loan would be a slam dunk.

“We thought we’d go to the bank and bring some cooked sausages. We quickly found out [that] without two years of records it wasn’t going to happen,” Mattera said.

Instead they turned to New Vision, New Ventures, a local small business advocacy organization, and applied for an SBA Community Express Loan. Although they didn’t get the $35,000 they wanted, they did get a $5,000 loan, which was enough to get the ball rolling.

“What it helped us do was put together investors. People don’t want to be the first on board,” Mattera said.

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