By Charles Hallman
When the Minnesota Twins opened its new ballpark a year ago, team officials said its concessions lineup was “among the most diverse in Major League Baseball” but there were no Black-owned businesses among the concessions.
The team has improved its diversity this season, however, by adding Ken Davis Bar-B-Q Sauce, first developed in 1972 by the late Ken Davis, who opened a restaurant in Minneapolis in the late 1960s, to the ballpark’s local food lineup. The sauce will be served with the Giant Juicy Turkey Sandwich, available at Turkey to Go, which is located on the main concourse behind home plate.
Last season, there were several Minnesota favorites featured at the ballpark, but none were Black-owned. According to a team release, the barbecue sauce is consistent with the inaugural season’s emphasis on local fare.
“We continue to strive to enhance the overall experience of going to a ball game at the ballpark,” claims Twins President Dave St. Peter during an interview with the MSR last week. After last season, “We sought out new partners and great signature brands,” he continues, adding that the long association between Turkey to Go and Ken Davis products convinced the team to add it to the Twins ballpark eatery fare.
“They started using our sauce at the State Fair,” explains Ken Davis Enterprises President Barbara Davis of her partnership with Turkey to Go. “They got into the stadium this year and brought us with them.”
“We expressed a strong desire to see that partnership extended to the team,” notes St. Peter.
Delaware North Minnesota Sportservice General Manager Peter Spike says, “We want to make sure that it is something that the fans will enjoy and want. [Ken Davis Bar-B-Q Sauce] obviously goes well with the turkey sandwiches that the Turkey to Go folk offer at the State Fair and the food trucks on Nicollet Mall. I think it was a very smart and strategic decision.”
Ken Davis Bar-B-Q Sauce is available in local grocery stores as well as stores in Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska and the Dakotas. “It has the reputation and brand, and it stands by itself,” notes Spike.
According to St. Peter, thus far it has been a hit among ballpark goers. “We are doing a fair amount of market research right now, but I think the best feedback I can speak on the numbers of sandwiches being sold, and the…feedback from fans, we are very pleased about the way our fans have responded to our new food items.”
Spike surmises that his job now is “how can we make and expand that brand within the ballpark, to sell it with other [food items] in the ballpark.” He pledges that he will continue working with Davis in this aspect.
The “Walk A Taco” by El Burrito Mercado, a local Mexican family-owned restaurant in St. Paul, which can be purchased at the ballpark’s Senor Smoke’s locations, also was added this season.
Furthermore, the Twins and Delaware North both say they plan to add more Black-owned items to the ballpark, says St. Peter. “We will review what we are doing in 2011 and look forward to 2012,” he points out. “We encourage folk that have established brands [or] a new food and beverage concept to…express their interest. We certainly will engage in further discussion.”
“I think we’ve shown a pretty large commitment to the region. We’re definitely are open to new ideas,” concurs Spike. “We appreciate anyone who comes forward with something unique that has a niche, and definitely benefits the community and the good folk here at Target Field,” he points out.
“I hope that this will open some doors for other [Black vendors],” says Davis on being part of the Twins’ ballpark food lineup. Although she adds that it isn’t easy: “You have to be a good-sized vendor to handle a venue like this. Many of our businesses are too small, so we’re hoping that [other Black businesses] can do what we did — latch on to somebody else and get in [the stadium] and get the opportunity to grow.
“We are making progress little by little,” she concludes of Twins’ concessions diversity efforts.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to email@example.com.