Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
At times, 1978 seems like only yesterday to Terry Dennis.
That's the year he began working as a butcher in the family grocery store his father and uncle opened in Canora in 1947.
It's also the year he began experimenting with a traditional recipe for a marinated lamb dish known as "shishliki." The product quickly became one of the most popular items in the store, and Dennis knew he was onto something.
"It seemed to catch on pretty quickly with our regular customers and people from around town," he said. "Pretty soon, we had people coming into the store from all over asking for it."
Shishliki is a food of Russian origin, referring to marinated meat. Today, "Terry's Shishliki," as the product is marketed, can be found in many parts of Saskatchewan. Dennis estimates roughly 35 to 40 stores across the province have carried the product line over the years.
But its popularity hasn't remained a Saskatchewan secret. "We've had people come into the store to take packs of shishliki back with them to places like Victoria, Detroit, Toronto and all parts in between," he said.
"I've even custom-shipped a few packs out to some far-away destinations. My shishliki has done more traveling than I have," Dennis added with a chuckle.
Shishliki can be cooked like any other meat at any time of year, but by far the most popular method of preparation is on the barbeque. As a result, with numerous lake resorts surrounding Canora, it's the summertime that keeps Dennis the busiest.
The business began taking its shishliki show on the road in 1990, doing custom cookouts for various functions. Since then, Dennis estimates he has served hundreds of family reunions, weddings, staff barbeques, farmer appreciation days and the like.
"This is now one of the busiest parts of our operation," he said. "This summer alone, we're booked for 25 to 30 cookouts."
One of the highlights in Dennis' business career came in the early 1990s, when a shishliki booth he operated at Canadian Western Agribition in Regina was featured as one of the most popular booths at the show.
Today, Dennis and his brother Gerald continue to own and operate the family grocery store. While making a go of a business in a rural community can be challenging at times, Dennis says that finding a niche market with a specialty product has helped them immensely.
"If we didn't do this kind of diversification, we probably wouldn't be here today," he said.
Over the years, Dennis has continued to experiment and add new products to his shishliki line. Pork, chicken and beef shishliki can now be found in addition to lamb. Different flavours of meat, such as honey garlic pork and soya citrus chicken, have also been added.
"It's a value-add for us, and it's a value-add for the farmers who produce the product we use," he said. "Many of them are also our customers, so it's a win-win situation that we like a lot."
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