It all started out as a marketing ploy, a way to differentiate W.A. Bean & Sons' handmade hot dogs from those of its competitors way back in 1918. Now, the "red snapper" and its bright red natural casing have become synonymous with the Bangor meat company -- and a summertime staple in Maine.

"We figured we would try some red dye," said Sean Smith, the company's director of sales (and a member of the Bean family.)  "I would say it worked."

Worked, it has.

From its beginnings "on a dirt road on Ohio Street in 1860," the company has grown exponentially and its distinctively delicious signature product (as well as its wide variety of sausages and other meats) are available throughout Maine. But it's not just at the local grocery store where you can find W.A. Bean & Sons meats.

Lesser known is the company's retail store right at its Bomarc Road facility, where anyone can come in (or order online) and buy anything from its long list of products that includes corned beef, sausages, sirloin steak, hamburger, pork chops, chicken and too many more to mention. (Here's a tip: Make sure to visit on a "Free Hot Dog Friday" for obvious reasons.)

Yes, those "red snappers" have become more than another product on the list. In fact, the hot dogs are so popular they've spawned a Maine Red Hot Dog Festival in Dexter. This year is the festival's first. It's on Aug. 13, so be sure to stop by. You'll even see the folks from W.A. Ban & Sons there.

Describe the W.A. Bean customer.
SMITH: "If people are looking for a quality, local product, they know they can come into our retail shop. We also provide a wholesale service, so the same thing with chefs, buyers for restaurants or local institutions. They know if they want a quality locally-made, handmade product, they know they can contact W. A Bean."

Is there one item on your list of products that you could eat every day?
SMITH: "I would say our Geaghan's Special Reserve chicken sausage. It's dynamite. It's by far the best sausage we make."

How did you get the money to start the business?
While any financial details of how the business started are probably lost to history considering the age of the company, Smith said that founder Albert Bean began the business as a labor of love, a one-man butcher shop, then slaughterhouse operation. "He did it all himself."

If you could give one piece of advice to someone thinking of launching a small business, what would it be?
SMITH: "Know your market, number one, and be passionate about what you're doing. I can tell you right now, I wouldn't be sitting here selling meat if I weren't passionate about it. It's a family business. It's something we take a lot of pride in."

W.A. Bean & Sons
229 Bomarc Road
Bangor, Maine
(207) 947-0364


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