Stittsworth agrees to join trade show; Meat market plans to sell popular brats at stores instead
A popular Bemidji meat market plans to participate in the Jaycees' Home, Sport and Travel Show next month, but won't be selling its popular brats there.
Instead, Stittsworth Meats will be a non-food vendor and distribute brochures and coupons to attendees. The business also plans to grill brats at its two locations during the event, which runs from March 30-April 1.
The decision by Stittsworth owners comes one day after the Sanford Center advisory board offered a compromise for food vendors, cutting its original 35 percent sales commission to 20 percent for 2012.
The advisory board voted Tuesday to offer a lower commission and then pursue an escalating percentage of 3 percent per year over the next five years.
"We could not feel comfortable charging $8 for a brat just so we could pay our expense to be a food vendor," Corey Stittsworth told the Bemidji Jaycees, which posted the comment on its Facebook page. "After all we have to be fiscally responsible so that we can pay our taxes to support the Sanford Center. We will also sponsor a new Jaycee member at each store."
Owner Mychal Stittsworth did not return a call seeking comment Wednesday.
Char Blashill, the Jaycees' chairwoman for the show, said Stittsworth attending the show was good news.
"It's pretty awesome," Blashill said in a phone interview. "I'm very happy they are coming.
"Now if we can just get people to come and not boycott."
Previously, several people threatened to boycott the show over the commission squabble, according to Blashill and posts to online social networking sites.
At a Sanford Center advisory board meeting Tuesday, members unanimously approved a revision to allow food vendors to pay 20 percent commission on gross sales during the show. Food vendors also wouldn't have to pay commission on gross sales for their first $300 per booth.
In addition, the Sanford Center plans to sell its own concessions during the show.
The city-owned event center is managed by VenuWorks.
Roger Swanson, a VenuWorks employee and executive director of the event center, said the policy is common practice, and the facility has a "fiduciary duty to its client" to make as much money as possible.
"When 100 percent of food and beverage (sales) go out the backdoor, it's not fair to the city," Swanson said Tuesday.
On Wednesday, Swanson said he wishes Stittsworth all the best, but wishes the family-owned business had chosen to sell its brats during the trade show.
"It's good he will be here to support the Jaycees," Swanson said. "It's too bad he won't be serving his most popular product."
The Jaycees have not signed a contract with the Sanford Center for this year's show but the two sides plan to meet this week.
At least three food vendors from last year's show plan to return: Pitty Pat's from Park Rapids, Townsend Concessions from Fergus Falls and OOf-da Tacos from Erskine. In addition, Papa Murphy's plans to sell pizza at the trade show, Blashill said Wednesday.
She is waiting for a decision from three other food vendors, but hopes to know by the end of the week.
Overall, about 100 vendors of all kinds have committed to the 2012 show. While that's fewer than the 124 last year, Blashill said more vendors are registered this year compared to the same time last year.
Still, changes with the food vendors have created some uncertainty about their participation in coming years, she said.
The new policy provided "sticker shock" to food vendors, Blashill said. "We'll see what happens after this year."