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Slices and Dices

Marc Sanchez

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Billy Newcomb
(Marc Sanchez)
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The Minnesota State Fair is a big deal. People talk about it all year. Summer is fair season across the country. Rides, animal exhibits, gigantic vegetables, butter sculptures and any kind of food on a stick you can imagine. Billy Newcomb knows the fairgrounds intimately. It's his office, really, and his home. His family has been selling kitchen gadgets at the fair for 75 years. If it slices, dices, cleans or mops, Billy's family has probably sold it.

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Billy Newcomb: My father started selling just a few years prior to booking this fair. This was one of the first fairs he booked in the United States. Back in the 30s, he went to the boardwalk in New Jersey. He saw a gentleman selling a single vegetable cutter for a dollar. He acquainted himself with the man, got into the business, and he made a living traveling around the Midwest hawking kitchen-wares and slicers at fairs and festivals.

One of the first items my father sold here was called the "Feemster Slicer." It was a platform slicer, and back in those days, almost every lady in the Midwest put up their own vegetables. That's the way things were. You didn't go buy a tin can in the grocery store. This "Feemster Slicer" took corn off the cob, sliced carrots, potatoes, cucumbers. And, it sold for a dollar. We're selling a larger food processor now for $30. I'm sure he couldn't imagine us getting $30 for a kitchen gadget out at the fair.

As soon as I could push a two-wheeler around the fair grounds, I started in this industry. When I was in high school, my father let me have a booth of my own. I put the head set on and have been selling ever since.

Six months out of the year, I work on the road taking our store to the people. Everybody says, "boy, you've got it made, man. You only work six months out of the year." I say, "follow me." I'm on the fair grounds at 6:30 am running stock. The building closes at 9:00 pm. I go back to the warehouse and reload. Add it up. I'm living on five hours of sleep this entire 12 day fair.

"Better salesmanship through caffeine." That's my motto.

The strongest sales pitch I have is I'll say, "How many of you out there own our little chopper?" A third of the audience will raise their hands. I look them right in the eye and say, "would you recommend it to people?" They look back at me and say, "I wouldn't live without it." How's that for a sales pitch?

A lot of people that don't even buy my products come back every year to hear my jokes, and boy, I've got some real corny ones. I put jalapeno in my salsa. I look right at the audience and say, "ladies and gentlemen, if I put in 1/3, it's medium. A half of one, it's hotter than the dickens. Now people you don't like, put in two jalapenos. Relatives? That's three. My mother in-law? That's four. And, I'm kidding. I like my mother in-law. Honest to goodness, she's a wonderful lady. It's her daughter I can't stand.

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Billy Newcomb's salsa recipe:

3 - 4 Roma Tomatoes
1/2 Onion
1/4 Bell Pepper
3 -4 Cloves Garlic
Jalapeno Pepper to taste (seeds & all)
6 - 8 Leaves of Cilantro
Juice of 1/2 Fresh Lemon or Lime
Salt to taste
Serve with Chips & Enjoy, it's like a FLAVOR BLAST in your mouth !
Yield: 2 Cups

  • Music Bridge:
    Fishing Ray
    Artist: Vibert Simmonds
    CD: Rodulate (Rephlex)

Comments

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  • By Don Shelley

    From St Cloud, MN, 03/06/2010

    My dad has a chopper we got from Billy in about 1990 that he still uses regularly for all kinds of things from pancake batter to chopping onions, it does it all and it really is made to last, not like the other cheap plastic imitations of the chopper.

    By Robert Lund

    From Edina, MN, 09/26/2009

    Bought the chopper and love it! Lost the recipie book that came with it. Is there a way to get another?
    Thanks,
    Rob

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