Detroit Couple Builds Chitlin’-Cleaning Empire

Bruce and Cynthia Tucker built a successful business around one of the oldest and most fundamental components of soul food: chitterlings, or chitlins as they are more commonly called.

According to the Detroit Free Press, the Tuckers are the owners and operators of Gourmet Food Center in Detroit which specializes in hand-cleaned chitterlings.

Cynthia got the idea as she prepared to cook dinner for her family. “I was getting ready to have the family over for dinner, so I was going to be cleaning 40 pounds of chitlins, and while I was cleaning these chitlins I thought to myself, boy, this is a lot of work. I need to be getting paid for this,” she told The Detroit Free Press. 

chitlin

The Tuckers (chitterlingcleaners.com)

The Gourmet Food Center is a 5,000-square-foot facility in the Eastern Market district, where “well trained, experienced and health-conscious food handlers clean the Chitterlings under strict Gourmet Food Center guidelines, preparing packaged, fresh and ready to cook Chitterlings,” as posted on its website.

chitlin

(Facebook)

Chitterlings, which are pig intestines, are notoriously difficult to clean and are known for their rather pungent odor when cooked, even after cleaning. A true American staple, chitterlings were consumed by black people during slavery, although many cultures around the world eat the intestines and other internal organs of animals. What’s Cooking America provides some insightful history on chitterlings:

In colonial times, hogs were slaughtered in December, and hog maws or ears, pigs feet, and neck bones were given to the slaves. Until emancipation, African-American food choices were restricted by the dictates of their owners, and slave owners often fed their slaves little more than the scraps of animal meat that the owners deemed unacceptable for themselves. Because of the West African tradition of cooking all edible parts of plants and animals, these foods helped the slaves survive in the United States.

The site also states that the business has been in operation for 29 years. There are three locations on both the East and West sides of Detroit. The couple says they clean more than 100 tons of chitterlings a year, and that their facility is the “largest Hand Cleaned Chitlin Cleaning Facility in the United States.”

The store’s motto, as per the website, is, ‘We clean the s**t out of chitlins!”

In addition to the stores, the business offers online ordering where customers can purchase cleaned chitterlings, hog maws, honey-glazed ham, and other soul food staples.

 

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Millennial Moves: PR Professional Builds Cigars and Whiskey Experiential Event

Millennials are creating and establishing experiential event spaces to increase engagement, awareness, knowledge-building, and most importantly, including the “culture.”  At 27 years old, Kerry Smalls is a director at public relations firm The Chamber Group, and creator of lifestyle event Cigars & Whiskey. In an interview, he discusses his career trajectory and what it took to build his event brand.

Describe the concept behind your brand Cigars & Whiskey.

The sole basis for the creation of Cigars & Whiskey is the idea of connection. Through living and working in New York, I realized how many people were in my network, and also, who they were connected to but would never have the opportunity to meet because of their differing careers and personal lives. My aim is to bring different minds together to forge nontraditional relationships while enjoying a nontraditional luxury experience that millennials do not often experience: cigars and whiskey—a personal favorite.

Cigars and whiskey are associated with financial gain, wealth, business, and the pleasantries of life—things young millennials, specifically my community of African Americans, are not traditionally exposed to if they don’t go out seeking it and that’s an issue. I want to be able to provide that atmosphere for those people—an atmosphere that inspires someone to change their life.

As a millennial entrepreneur how important is an experiential event to the culture? 

Experiential events are key, especially to culture. In fact, I can’t see a brand reaching their maximum potential without some type of tangible activation or experience that the consumer can latch on to in order to connect the dots to the product or service that is being offered. We live an age where, thanks to social media, visuals mean more than anything. People want something they can feel, touch, and see for themselves.

How has your job, as head of a celebrity public relations firm, prepared you for your latest venture? 

My job, at least nowadays, is connecting the culture to the masses. Creating untraditional scenarios and narratives in order to move a brand from point A to point B. In order to do that effectively, I have to at all times know what is going on in the streets. My career in the business has taught me strategy, it’s taught me timing, it’s taught me execution. But most importantly, it’s forced me to stay ahead of trends and understand the generation that I essentially am marketing to and inviting to my events.

How does Cigars & Whiskey differ from other events geared toward millennials? If you create the environment, the people will come. Simple as put. We don’t want Cigars & Whiskey to just be seen as a party or mixer. Yes, it is social and the events are being created so that you have fun but we want our guests to walk away feeling more inspired than when they entered. We want to send our guests on their way with new relationships and experiences that they can utilize for the betterment of their personal and professional lives.

What tips can you provide to any up-and-coming millennial entrepreneurs who wish to work in your field? 

There are many tips and tricks that I’ve learned that keep me going but the few I focus on the most lately are the following:

  • Work hard, at whatever it is you do and expect nothing in return.
  • Build with like-minded people. As you get older, everyone takes up space. Surround yourself with people that offer something to your life both professionally and personally. You will see that this is effective when you are taking that first leap of faith with your business.
  • Take nothing personally when doing business. You will get hurt when things don’t pan out the way you’d wish they had.
  • Consider your pros and cons but don’t ever let the cons deter you away from making an actual decision. Usually, that means that the move is risky, and typically, that is where you could see the most reward.
  • Balance. Don’t go at that thing so hard that you burn yourself out and jeopardize your creative thinking. Self-care is real. Find enjoyment in your work, even if in small bits. And outside of work, learn to relax. Turn it off. Have fun. The second you stop having fun, you need to go back and re-evaluate why you started doing it in the first place. In that space is where you find the inspiration to keep going.

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