It was the kind of spiel heard every night at home product-pitching parties across the nation. "These are the best tongs I've ever used ... I've got some of this at home ... I'm going to wrap this up quickly, because I know you're here to socialize."
Except that there was nary a plastic bowl or pink-hued garment in sight. And the semi-rapt audience was husky and hairy, broader-shouldered and deeper-voiced than one would expect.
Probably because they were, not to put too fine a point on it, men.
The event was a ManCave gathering, and the items being pitched included a 15-inch-square spatula, 34 kinds of bratwurst (including the popular jalapeño-pineapple) and a beer cozy with a pager that belches when prompted. This was not your mother's Tupperware party.
"It's just like Mary Kay, except that it's geared toward guys," said ManCave Worldwide CEO Nick Beste, who concocted the concept last October upon realizing that "there's absolutely nothing like this for men."
That might help explain why a company less than a year old has two to three "meat-ings" every week in Minnesota alone, and in eight other states stretching from Yucca Valley, Calif., to New Hampshire.
The ManCave conclave held this month at an AutoPlex Metro "garage condo" in Chanhassen was fairly typical, Beste said.
A score of host Jeff Stoebner's friends pulled up in black Cadillacs and Cayenne Turbos to a spanking-clean space packed with boy toys such as a shiny Mini Cooper and Porsche, 50-inch and 14-foot TVs on separate walls, a basketball goal with free-throw lane and some actual boys' toys, mostly on wheels, for Stoebner's kids.
""I'll bet this is the first [meat-ing] with a disco ball," Stoebner said. "I used to make fun of my wife and her parties, like, 'You girls always have to get together and take each other's money.' And now we're right there."
Indeed, Stoebner's friends admitted they liked what they saw, although Darryl Rozelle of Chaska said with a sly smile, "I don't think you can print what I'm thinking about doing with that [outsized spatula]."
Standing next to Rozelle, Mark Gempler of Chanhassen was eyeing a "smoking" box to hold wood chips on a grill. "I thought that would be $40 or so, and it's $20," he said, scoping out a table full of goods, including a cylindrical device for roasting a chicken. "This is quality stuff. I'm not so sure about that chicken-on-a-can thing, though."
Bumpy first 'meat-ing'
Beste, who's all of 22, grew up around a "man cave" -- a Quonset hut that his father, Kevin, converted into a woodworking shop. Once he came up with the idea of "Mary Kay for men," he moved quickly, incorporating within a month and studying the MOs of Pampered Chef, Tastefully Simple, Amway and other home parties. For all that prep work, though, ManCave Worldwide drove right into an uncovered manhole at the outset.
"At the first meeting we ever had, we had zero dollars in sales," Beste said. "We had people come over for a poker game, and we didn't tell 'em what we were doing. They were like, 'What? Who are you?' Now our invitations say what's going on."
He quickly recruited "advisers" who would run the meat-ings, do the grilling, make the pitches and close the deals before leaving by 9 p.m. or so. "We've found that if guys take the catalog home," he said, "it [a sale] doesn't happen."
The advisers get a commission not only from their own sales -- about $1,400 for the Chanhassen event -- but also from those achieved by the teams they recruit to ManCave. The host gets a few free items and, if sales exceed $1,000, a 25-ounce beer mug with 24-karat gold lettering. ManCave items come with a lifetime guarantee (except for the meat) and are delivered to the buyer's home.
The two advisers at the AutoPlex party are used to working together. Pete Keiner, who delivered the sales pitch, and Greg Holst, who manned the grill (tri-tip, buffalo steaks and, of course, brats), were partners in Elk River -- Keiner as a Realtor and Holst as a general contractor.
"Things slowed down," said Holst, "and we said, 'We've got to do something.' This just fit. I told someone that if I had been there and heard about something called Microsoft, I would have wanted to get in on that."
And the work itself is a natural fit, he added.
"If you've got a little bit of sales in you, you're going to do well. This is a piece of cake," Holst said. "I'm not used to standing in front of a bunch of guys and talking, but it's easy. You're not standing there worried about whether you've got something stuck in your teeth.
"And where else can you find a job where you get to hang out with guys and eat meat and don't have to wear a tie?"
Bill Ward • 612-673-7643