Saturday, March 27, 2010

A Business that does it well...

I am way behind in posting.  I guess once a month is regular.  But  it's not my goal.
The good news, during the absence I totally gutted and rebuilt the catalog, backend & client portal of OnlyWEBS. The domain registration (new provider, new interface), the catalog  It's all way improved. (that's english?)  Amble on over & check it out, if you have a mind to.

However, that's not the topic of this post.

Again a find myself discussing an establishment with food as a key component.  Last post was directed at Jack and the new "jackie in the box" self service order thing.  & how it led me to bail on lunch at Jack's place.

This story is totally different.  It's about a place I have been going for 25+/- years.  It's not even easy to get to.   First you have to be in Texas.  2nd you need to like the backcountry.  On U.S. Highway 281 about 125 miles from Dallas (SW), is the town of Hamilton.  It's between Evant & Hico?  no? How about between Glen Rose and Lampasas?

On the north side of Hamilton, totally out by itself is an establishment called the Dutchman's Hidden Valley Country Store.
It is one of those places that becomes a tradition, an icon, legendary even.

The question is why?  How does it survive year after year?  I mentioned I'd been going there for 25 years.  It didn't look new then.  I don't know how long it's been there.  Actually, I do.  I looked it up.  it started 40 years ago as a produce stand.  23 years ago, the man I know as the Dutchman, Ron Wenzel, took it over.  Today his daughter, Kara, runs the show.  According to their website, they have 10 rooms under 14000 sq ft of roof. 

They have: antiques, knick-knacks, novelties/toys, old time candy, handmade candy (they make it on marble slabs), a smokehouse (producing buffalo jerky among other things), a deli and selection of homemade preserves that's hard to imagine.  My 7 yr old, won't eat anything but Dutchman's Pumpkin Butter on her peanut butter sandwiches.

Everytime we go through the area, a stop at the Dutchman's is on the agenda.  My kids will abandon the action in San Antonio, to get there.  The deli's Bavarian Ham sandwich is the best.  Ever.  The Fudge.  The Jelly Belly selection.  Jalapeno Peanut Brittle (love it).

My favorite BBQ sauce (at the moment) is the Honey Habenaro.  There are many others to try.

I also have acquired a very large (old) pressure cooker.  A print of some ducks (with an autograph by the painter... scribbled on the back no less!) and the longest set of longhorn horns I had ever seen.  Those have hung over various fireplaces for many years.  

Oh! - I almost forgot.  Last time we were there they had a new addition to the soda fountain:  Dr. Pepper. It might have been there before & I just missed it.  I must set the stage for this next element to achieve it's full significance.

First of all, Dr. Pepper is the KING of soda round these parts. It was invented in Waco TX, which is more or less due east of Hamilton. In the old days, like all soda's it was made with sugar not that corn "sirrup" stuff.  In this case, not any sugar, but Imperial Sugar (from Sugarland TX).   A few years back, the Dr Pepper plant in Dublin (Texas still), re-introduced Dr. Pepper made with real Imperial sugar.  It came in those little 7-8 oz bottles.  It was called Dublin Dr. Pepper, by most.  Well people loved it, but it was hard to find. For awhile, the old catfish restaurant in Tioga was the only place around my area, where you could find it.   So, people paid for it. Paid handsomely. It was more than a buck for those little bottles.  It's real real good!  Now DP in cans, liters, & fountains was and is everywhere.

No big deal.   but...

The Dutchman's Dr Pepper? In the fountain?   For $0.50 each BIG glass (bigger if you're easy on the ice) is Dr Pepper made with Imperial sugar.  It's real x 4 good!

Here's the question... why does the Dutchman's survive?  By current logic one would argue many things against it.  Location, no other nearby businesses, a product hodge-podge, too many sku's (the homemade preserves fill a 50 foot wall), too many one off's (they'll slice your loaf of deli bread in an antique bread slicer for $0.15).
What do you think?  Here's their website... Dutchman's - don't go too crazy on the fudge or brittle!
Next post will ponder some answers we may all be able to use.

Let's Grow!