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    Recent News: (2017)

    Mike Bryan, a long-time Fan of Wook's Beef Jerky & "Also a Military Veteran", is the New Owner of Wook's Inc. and WooksBeefJerky.com. Mike has been active adding distribution channels for Wooks Beef Jerky allowing the product to be accessed by the ravenous customer base across a wider geography. Winn-Dixie began distributing the product regionally in 2016, and the plans to add more channels will expand in 2017. Mike Bryan has also been working with the P.G.A. (Professional Golfers Association) and will be adding distribution, exposure and promotions via the P.G.A. moving into 2017.

    For More Information on WooksBeefJerky.com and the P.G.A. contact Mike Bryan @ mike.bryan@wooksbeefjerky.com

    By Gary White
    THE LE.DGER
    Published: Sunday, June 8, 2014

    Lakeland Woman’s Jerky Company Builds Following at Market

    Deborah Wilk, founder of Wook’s Beef Jerky, talks about the business as she packs jerky for weekend sales events in Lakeland. Wilk makes beef jerky and chicken dog treats to sell at farmer’s markets.

    LAKELAND – When William “Wook” Wilk was stationed in Korea with the Air Force, he sometimes mailed packages home to his wife and their young son.

    Deborah Wilk, William’s wife, said her son, Michael, was especially excited when the shipment contained a bag of hickory-flavored beef jerky, something his father regularly manufactured for his fellow servicemen. At the time, Deborah Wilk didn’t imagine she would one day create a business based on her husband’s recipes for jerky.

    That, though, is how it transpired. Deborah Wilk is the founder of Wook’s Beef Jerky, a business well known to regular patrons of the Lakeland Downtown Farmer’s Curb Market. Michael Wilk usually staffs the booth, where he sells four flavors of beef jerky — along with mushroom jerky for the vegetarians — as well as dog treats.

    Wilk’s jerky products are sold at markets throughout the state, and she offers online sales through her website (www.wooksbeefjerky.com). Though her business has grown steadily since she launched it, she isn’t satisfied yet.

    “We want to be a big boy one of these days,” Wilk said of the business aspirations.

    Wilk, didn’t set out to pursue a career in food production. She has a master’s degree in counseling and worked for five years as a guidance counselor, most recently in Connecticut. Eventually, though, she became emotionally fatigued from the work and looked to do something else.

    Around that time, William Wilk retired from the Air Force as a 100-percent disabled veteran. He continued to get requests from former colleagues and other friends for jerky. The couple had plans to settle in Lakeland, where some of Deborah Wilk’s relatives lived.

    Noting the popularity of the dehydrated foods, she had an idea.

    “I said, ‘Why don’t I turn this into a business when we move down to Florida?’ and he said, ‘OK,’ ” Wilk recalled. “So that’s basically what I did. I took all his recipes and kind of improved on them and turned them into a business.”

    Starting Small

    Beef Jerky

    Paying tribute to her husband’s nickname, Deborah Wilk used $2,500 in savings to open Wook’s Beef Jerky in 2011. She operated briefly out of an American Legion Post before moving to her current location.

    Jerky is dried and usually salted lean meat. The removal of water means jerky remains edible a long time.

    Wilk began with a single, small dehydrator that cost about $300. She soon upgraded to a larger model and eventually purchased a commercial-grade dehydrator the size of a typical refrigerator.

    Wilk obtains her beef from a meat market in Plant City and her mushrooms from the Plant City Farmers Market. She said she processes 300 to 600 pounds of beef a week and about 100 pounds of mushrooms. The amount of chicken she processes for dog treats varies depending on demand.

    It takes 4 to 5 pounds of beef to make one pound of beef jerky, Wilk said. Likewise, 1½ pounds of mushrooms dries into a 1.5-ounce bag of jerky.

    Wilk still uses her smaller dehydrators for making pet treats. She hopes to add a second commercial-grade machine soon to increase her production capacity.

    Wilk produces four varieties of beef jerky — teriyaki, pepper, hickory and spicy Cajun. Mushroom jerky comes in the same flavors, minus teriyaki.

    Wook’s has a standard price of $7 for all the products: 3.5-ounce bag of beef jerky, 1.5-ounce bag of mushroom jerky or 2.5-ounce bag of pet treats. The latter come in three varieties — beef, chicken and chicken liver.

    In addition to the Lakeland market, Wook’s jerky is regularly sold at markets in Jacksonville, Wesley Chapel, Tampa and other locations.

    Wilk’s products are certified through the Florida Department of Agriculture. She is making improvements to her kitchen to achieve certification from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a step that would allow the jerky to be sold in stores.

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