Here's the Beef

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Boynton will often muscle in on another seller's turf, setting up shop if the legitimate guy doesn't show up by noon on weekends. "That means I'm out there in some pretty lousy weather," he admits. "If those guys aren't at their regular spots, that's because it's raining or too windy."

Sometimes he buys his jerky from other stands and marks it up, and sometimes he gets it wholesale from a jerky seller he won't name, who charges him a buck or two more for it and pockets the profits. "But, hey, I'm making enough to make payments on this van and have a condo," Boynton says. "And the whole point here, really, is for me to snowboard through the winter and not have to work."

He jumps up when a small green Toyota from Minnesota makes the turn into the parking lot, drawn by the hand-painted "Jerky" sign. "Howdy," he says, faking a little bit of a drawl.

"Do you have any samples?" the tourist asks as she looks over his offerings. "Uh, no, ma'am, I'm sorry, not today," he says. "I haven't gotten my delivery yet, so I'm running low." She opens her wallet and hands over a twenty for a $15 four-ounce package of elk jerky. He grins, hands her back a fiver, and tells her to have a nice day.

"You bet," she says, and starts heading back to her car before turning back to admonish him, "And you're welcome, young man."

"Jesus Christ," Boynton shakes his head after she's driven off, but not before two more cars have pulled up to his van. "The shit I have to put up with."

Boynton doesn't know the half of it.

Monty Nuss does things the hard way. He not only sells jerky at his store, Monty Nuss Beef Jerky, located in Lone Tree's Heritage Hills shopping plaza, but he also makes it there.

Jerky is a second career for Nuss, who's been a popular photographer -- "I do mostly family stuff," he says -- in the Littleton area for decades. When he first started making jerky at home a decade ago, he offered it to family, friends and loyal photography customers. "You know how it goes," he says. "People start saying, 'Hey, you should market this stuff,' and I was foolish enough to believe them."

He started out in a small shop with a commercial kitchen at Arapahoe and South Broadway in Littleton; four years later, RTD knocked on the door and said it needed its lot back. But in the meantime, Nuss's business -- and well as his flavor line -- had been growing. "In the first few years, I just thought jerky was jerky was jerky," he says. "Then I started hearing about all of these different things you could do with it to give it more flavor, and customers just kept egging me on." Two years ago, Nuss found his current location, where you now can buy his freshly smoked beef jerky at $32 a pound, as well as margarita jelly, a locally made scone mix or a wooden carving of a dog smoking a cigar.

Nuss uses brisket from Montana for his jerky, selected for its lean qualities, according to Mike Martinez, Nuss's head smoker. "You lose less meat that way," Martinez explains as he and his assistant, Abel Montoya, cut the brisket by hand and then drop the thin slices into a large plastic bin filled with secret liquids and spices. "We only end up losing about 25 percent, which is way better than the 75 percent you usually lose when you're smoking." But first the meat spends the night marinating in a walk-in cooler; in the morning, it's spread out on a five-foot-tall metal unit with screens for shelves, where it sits for about an hour before the whole thing is rolled into a six-foot-tall Pro Smoker 'n Roaster to smoke for four hours.

When the meat comes out, it has a tender texture and one of seven flavors: Tenderfoot, a mild, traditional style, and the first flavor Nuss made; Kick Ass, with extra black pepper; Red Devil, with crushed red and black pepper; Salty Dog, with extra salt; Teriyaki; Red Hot Sweety, a combination of teriyaki and Red Devil; and Habanero, so hot the store keeps it in the back for customers in the know.

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Kyle Wagner
Contact: Kyle Wagner