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$2 yard sale buy starts jerky venture

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$2 yard sale buy starts jerky venture

Tom (left) and Tommy Lindsey started Tom’s California Gold Beef Jerky with a $2 dehydrator. The two have since passed away, leaving the family venture to Lathrop’s Kim Kautz, Tom Lindsey’s daughter.

Photos contributed/

POSTED September 10, 2013 11:50 p.m.

LATHROP – The dream began with a $2 dehydrator, rescued from an assortment of trinkets and toys at a yard sale nearly 20 years ago.

And it continues today because one woman – with the help of her husband and six children – refuses to let the family business venture dry up.

Only through personal tragedy did Lathrop’s Kim Kautz find herself at the forefront of Tom’s California Gold Beef Jerky.

The chewy treat was always the bond between father and son, a Citrus Height twosome so tight their names couldn’t even tell them apart.

The company’s original owners were Tom and Tommy Lindsey, who lived short but impactful lives. The two died within five months of each other, leaving the fate of the small snack operation in the hands of Kautz, a working mother of six.

“It took me a couple of months to think about it. When my dad passed away, I was out of it,” said Kautz, a near 20-year employee of Raley’s. “I almost lost my job because I was so depressed with everything.”

Tommy suffered from congestive heart failure. He died in October at the age of 42, leaving behind children Hunter (8) and Harley (14).

Tom tried his best to move on without his son, whose BBQ skills he held in the highest regard, but his sadness was palpable.

“It was devastating for him. He kept saying, ‘Who’s going to BBQ for me?’ ” Kautz said. “My brother was amazing. He was sad. You couldn’t talk about it without tears.”

In March, Tom fell backwards onto his lawnmower. Though he didn’t break any bones, Kautz said his lungs began to fill slowly with blood.

One week later, he was dead.

“It’s been heart-breaking,” Kautz said. “My dad and brother were really, really close.”

Found ‘Cali Gold’

at a yard sale

Tom’s California Gold Beef Jerky was born out of a simple request by Tommy in 1994.

“He asked my dad if he wanted to make jerky for their camping trip,” Kautz said. “He found a dehydrator at a yard sale for $2 and started making different recipes. … They were having fun with it.”

The Lindseys enlisted friends and family members as official taste-testers, using their feedback to build a recipe coveted across the globe.

“He ended up getting so many customers through friends and family members,” Kautz said.

“The jerky was moooooving (sic) faster than he could produce it,” reads Kautz’s written testimonial on the packaging.

The recipe was eventually sent to Rio Linda’s Stafford Meat Company, where it could be produced in bulk. For years, Tom Lindsey handled distribution, visiting bars, farmer’s markets, banks, as well as other shops and stores throughout Northern California.

In the early days, he would package the jerky in zip-locked bags, drawing the ire of Kautz. The baggies made it look like her father was selling dope, she said jokingly, not jerky.

To be fair, California Gold Beef Jerky can be quite addicting.

The jerky comes in original (no heat), peppered and extra hot.

Building a business

Kautz has tapped into new markets since assuming ownership, selling to her children’s sports teams and schools and a growing list of word-of-mouth clients. In three months, she says she has had to place three bulk orders, each one containing at least 120 packages of jerky.

“It’s doing better than I could have ever imagined,” Kautz said.

Haven Acres owner Rich Hogan can’t keep the jerky in the canisters. He says the waterfront bar and grill in Lathrop goes through three-to-four canisters a week.

“They came to me and I made sure they had their ducks in a row,” Hogan said. “I carry the product as an experiment and it sold out in four days – three big ol’ canisters.”

In fact, it’s been so popular with bar patrons, Hogan asked Kautz to set up a booth at the annual Alligator Races in August.

“She’s done a nice job with it,” Hogan said.

Her father and brother would be proud.

Kautz is working on establishing a footprint in the North San Joaquin Valley, and the first step is to legitimize the business. A business license, label redesign and website are in the works, she says.

Once viewed as a painful reminder of the her father and brother’s tragic deaths, Kautz believes the jerky is a gift.

“My dad didn’t have any money, but what he left us was better than any inheritance,” she said. “A lot of people squander their inheritance, but I told my kids if they want they can really build something.”

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