Bill Stoianoff, aka "Uncle Bill," now carries a briefcase. For those who know the local sausage king, that's quite a statement.
"I've got a lot of plans," he says, fresh back from an American Meat Institute convention in Chicago. And those plans are to expand.
Most locals know Uncle Bill from his stand at the Clark Fork River Market during the summer, or his Brooks Street shop, The Joint Effort. He sells his popular bratwurst, brockwurst and Christmas sausage—as well as many other varieties—from both locations, usually taking the time to talk spices, recipes and red wine.
The 62-year-old Missoula native stuffs 7,000 pounds of sausage links yearly and scours classic cookbooks for ideas; he's been known to have German recipes translated into English to recreate delicacies. Uncle Bill always grinds his own spices and always wears his signature beret.
"There's three of us working—me, myself and I," he quips. "And I work those other two sons of bitches, too."
But Uncle Bill is poised to grow his operation. As he sits down with his briefcase to discuss his plans, he pulls out a glossy brochure featuring rows of impeccably portioned links lined above a shining new sausage-stuffing machine.
"I think I might go see one of these in action," he says.
Next, Uncle Bill pulls out the bottom-fill, tamper-proof bag he's eyeing to package his product. It's perfect, he says, pointing to the best part—a spot on the back for recipes.
Uncle Bill's goal is to increase production from 7,000 pounds of sausage a year to 7,000 pounds a day. Ultimately, he aims to build his own manufacturing, retail and wholesale facility, complete with a daycare center for his employee's children.
Uncle Bill says he's working with the Lake County Development Corporation in Ronan, a small business incubator, to secure grant money for his expansion. If all goes according to plan, he envisions grocery stores and restaurants across the nation enjoying the Montana-made product. The only trick will be maintaining the quality of the sausage.
"Basically, you are what you eat," he says. "So don't eat shit."