Without planning, Tom Greineder's effort to save money ended up as a rapidly growing business.
Greineder, of Wrightsville, for years has been a beef jerky fan. But when he lost his manufacturing job last summer, he didn't want to spend money on the expensive snack. So he bought a $200 food dehydrator to make his own.
And it was smoking good, his friends said. So good, they encouraged him to sell the stuff.
About six months ago, he founded The Jerky Connection, a business that makes fresh beef jerky in small batches at his home workshop.
"What started out to be a hobby turned out to be the money maker right now," Greineder said.
Recently, the company was praised by organizations including the Scovie Awards, touted as "one of the world's most competitive gourmet food competitions."
Greineder said he was humbled -- as a newcomer in the jerky-making world -- to get four Scovie awards.
"I was kind of surprised," he said adding some competitors have been making beef jerky for scores of years.
Today, The Jerky Connection's business is, well, hot.
"It's picking up," Greineder said. "I have quite a few repeat customers that buy on a weekly basis right now."
Shortly before Christmas, he said he was working "around the clock" to meet customer orders submitted on the company's website. The Jerky Connection's prices average roughly $5 for two ounces of jerky.
Greineder said his wife Theresa, daughter Alicia, 17 and son Lancelot, 15 help him run the business.
"My daughter does all my taste testing," he said. "She names a lot of the jerky, too."
One of the company's lines -- 7 Gates of Hell - The Tale of Toad Road Asylum -- is based on a Hellam area legend.
Other flavors include Chocolate Inferno Beef Jerky, Hillbilly Campfire Beef Jerky and Satan's Flaming Hemorrhoids.
Tony Chadwick, based in Littleton, Colo., handles public relations and marketing for The Jerky Connection. He's also a self-described lifelong beef jerky fan.
Chadwick on Wednesday said the company's rate of growth is phenomenal.
"It all starts with (Greineder's) recipes," Chadwick said. "The quality is second to none."
The new Satan's line is made from "the hottest peppers in the world," he said.
Chadwick, whose public relations roots come from the wine industry, said he's having "a blast" working on The Jerky Connection promotions.
The company experienced roughly 52 percent growth per month since it started last summer, he said.
"It has been a flippin ball," he said. "(Greineder) has a genius about him . . . you're getting flavor and spice."
After losing his job, Greineder found his calling, Chadwick said.
"Tom's got a really creative side to him," Chadwick said. "He knows how flavors react to each other."
Crystal Davis, vice president of York's Buy Local Coalition, said The Jerky Connection is a fresh, new company and member of the organization, which promotes area businesses.
"Like many of us, The Jerky Connection offers a new and fun product," she said via email. "I can't wait to try all of their jerky -- especially the Seven Gates of Hell."
Pittsburgh resident Edward Grassel found The Jerky Connection on Twitter.
"I was actually their very first online order," he said adding that he was pleased with the company's products.
"I was just flat out impressed," he said. "It was good quality meat and I enjoyed it."
Today, Grassel is a repeat customer and recently bought about $60 worth of The Jerky Connection products as a gift for his father-in-law.
"He's a big fan as well," Grassel said.
The Jerky Connection won the following Scovie awards:
--- Devil's Den beef jerky and Gate 7 Beef Jerky -- 2nd place silver medals
--- Insanity beef jerky -- 3rd place bronze medal
--- Web Site and design: 2nd place silver medal
Learn more at http://thejerkyconnection.com/